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Chinese volunteers spend 200 days on virtual ‘moon base’

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Chinese volunteers have spent 200 continuous days in a ‘lunar lab’ in Beijing to help the nation prepare for its goal of putting people on the moon, Chinese state media said on Friday.

The four volunteers, all students, crammed into a 160-square-metre (1,720-square-foot) cabin called ‘Yuegong-1’ – Lunar Palace – on the campus of Beihang University on July 9 last year and came out today, the official Xinhua news agency stated.

The goal of the project ‘Yuegong 365′, which in itself is one year long, is to test the limits of humans’ ability to live in a self-contained space for Beijing’s manned moon landing ambition, the official Xinhua news agency stated. 

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The eight volunteers for the 'Yuegong 365' wave to the camera from inside the 'Yuegong-1' lab on January 26 in Beijing. Four of them are leaving the lab after spending 200 days there, and the other four are replacing them and are due to stay in the sealed space for a further 105 days

The eight volunteers for the 'Yuegong 365' wave to the camera from inside the 'Yuegong-1' lab on January 26 in Beijing. Four of them are leaving the lab after spending 200 days there, and the other four are replacing them and are due to stay in the sealed space for a further 105 days

The eight volunteers for the ‘Yuegong 365’ wave to the camera from inside the ‘Yuegong-1’ lab on January 26 in Beijing. Four of them are leaving the lab after spending 200 days there, and the other four are replacing them and are due to stay in the sealed space for a further 105 days

Three volunteers look at the plants in the sealed lab to simulate a long-term space mission with no input from the outside world. 'Yuegong-1' cabin is situated in Beijing's Beihang University

Three volunteers look at the plants in the sealed lab to simulate a long-term space mission with no input from the outside world. 'Yuegong-1' cabin is situated in Beijing's Beihang University

Three volunteers look at the plants in the sealed lab to simulate a long-term space mission with no input from the outside world. ‘Yuegong-1’ cabin is situated in Beijing’s Beihang University

Volunteers inspect plants inside the simulated space cabin. The facility treats human waste with a bio-fermentation process, and volunteers grew experimental crops and vegetables with the help of food and waste byproducts. A new team of volunteers were sent into the lab today

Volunteers inspect plants inside the simulated space cabin. The facility treats human waste with a bio-fermentation process, and volunteers grew experimental crops and vegetables with the help of food and waste byproducts. A new team of volunteers were sent into the lab today

Volunteers inspect plants inside the simulated space cabin. The facility treats human waste with a bio-fermentation process, and volunteers grew experimental crops and vegetables with the help of food and waste byproducts. A new team of volunteers were sent into the lab today

Liu Guanghui, one of the volunteers, spoke to a Xinhua reporter through the phone when he was still staying in the lab. 

Liu, who is studying for his Master’s degree at the aerospace-focused Beihang University, called the experience ‘very enriching, challenging and beneficial.’

The experience tested the volunteers to the limit, the module’s chief designer Liu Hong told Xinhua. 

'Yuegong-1' has been designed and built by Chinese experts for the 'Yuegong 365' project, a year-long effort to help Beijing prepare for its long-term manned moon landing ambition

'Yuegong-1' has been designed and built by Chinese experts for the 'Yuegong 365' project, a year-long effort to help Beijing prepare for its long-term manned moon landing ambition

‘Yuegong-1’ has been designed and built by Chinese experts for the ‘Yuegong 365’ project, a year-long effort to help Beijing prepare for its long-term manned moon landing ambition

The 'Lunar Palace' has two plant cultivation modules (one is pictured above on July 9) and a living cabin: 42 square metres (452 square feet) containing four sleeping cubicles, a common room, a bathroom, a waste-treatment room and a room for raising animals

The 'Lunar Palace' has two plant cultivation modules (one is pictured above on July 9) and a living cabin: 42 square metres (452 square feet) containing four sleeping cubicles, a common room, a bathroom, a waste-treatment room and a room for raising animals

The ‘Lunar Palace’ has two plant cultivation modules (one is pictured above on July 9) and a living cabin: 42 square metres (452 square feet) containing four sleeping cubicles, a common room, a bathroom, a waste-treatment room and a room for raising animals

Volunteers speak to the journalists from inside the lunar lab on July 9, 2017. Liu Guanghui (not pictured), one of the volunteers who completed the 200-day stimulative challenge, spoke to a reporter and described the experience to be 'very enriching, challenging and beneficial'

Volunteers speak to the journalists from inside the lunar lab on July 9, 2017. Liu Guanghui (not pictured), one of the volunteers who completed the 200-day stimulative challenge, spoke to a reporter and described the experience to be 'very enriching, challenging and beneficial'

Volunteers speak to the journalists from inside the lunar lab on July 9, 2017. Liu Guanghui (not pictured), one of the volunteers who completed the 200-day stimulative challenge, spoke to a reporter and described the experience to be ‘very enriching, challenging and beneficial’

This is especially true on the three occasions when the lab experienced unexpected blackouts, according to Liu. 

Liu said the experience ‘challenged the system as well as the psychological status of the volunteers, but they withstood the test.’

The facility treats human waste with a bio-fermentation process, and volunteers grew experimental crops and vegetables with the help of food and waste byproducts. 

China’s moon landing: How Project Yuegong 365 will create a ‘lunar palace’

China started the year-long ‘Yuegong 365’ project on May 10, 2017.

The project’s main equipment, the ‘Yuegong-1’ simulator, is situated on the campus of Beihang University, a Beijing-based institute specialised in teaching and researching on aerospace technologies.

‘Yuegong-1’ is the first self-sustaining ecosystem China has designed and built that provides everything humans need to survive in an environment similar to that of a spacecraft in the outer space, according to Chinese website sciencenet.cn.

A Chinese worker watches an LCD screen to monitor Chinese volunteers in the sealed, self-contained laboratory simulating a moon-like environment, called "Yuegong-1"

A Chinese worker watches an LCD screen to monitor Chinese volunteers in the sealed, self-contained laboratory simulating a moon-like environment, called "Yuegong-1"

A Chinese worker watches an LCD screen to monitor Chinese volunteers in the sealed, self-contained laboratory simulating a moon-like environment, called ‘Yuegong-1’

Two men and two women entered for an initial stay of 60 days on May 10, 2017.

On July 9, they were relieved by another group of four, who stayed 200 days.

The second group of students came out on January 26, 2018, and the initial group will now return for an additional 105, Xinhua stated.

The newly released volunteers are currently under hospital observation.

A Chinese volunteer  in the sealed, self-contained laboratory simulating a moon-like environment, called "Yuegong-1" or "Lunar Palace"

A Chinese volunteer  in the sealed, self-contained laboratory simulating a moon-like environment, called "Yuegong-1" or "Lunar Palace"

A Chinese volunteer is pictured talking to journalists through a telephone while staying in ‘Yuegong-1’, whose name is translated as ‘Lunar Palace’ in English

The ‘Lunar Palace’ has two plant cultivation modules and a living cabin: 42 square metres (452 square feet) containing four sleeping cubicles, a common room, a bathroom, a waste-treatment room and a room for raising animals.

During an interview with Reuters, chief designer Liu Hong said they had designed the simulator in a way that the oxygen would be exactly enough to satisfy the humans, the animals, and the organisms that break down the waste materials.

Liu also explained that the oxygen would be produced by plants inside the station.

A successful 105-day trial was already conducted in 2014.

China's first manned spacecraft Shenzhou 5 lifts off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu Province Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2003

China's first manned spacecraft Shenzhou 5 lifts off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu Province Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2003

Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei waves before emerging from the Shenzhou V capsule in Inner Mongolia 16 October 2003

Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei waves before emerging from the Shenzhou V capsule in Inner Mongolia 16 October 2003

Yang Liwei (right), deputy director general of China Manned Space Agency and China’s first man in space, said last July that it would ‘not take long’ for China’s manned mission to the moon to get official approval and funding. Yang was carried into Space by Shenzhou 5 (left)

A Chinese official said in 2016 that China wants to put astronauts on the moon by 2036

A Chinese official said in 2016 that China wants to put astronauts on the moon by 2036

A Chinese official said in 2016 that China wants to put astronauts on the moon by 2036

Last July, China’s state media cited a senior space official who stated that it would ‘not take long’ for China’s manned mission to the moon to get official approval and funding.

The statement was made by Yang Liwei, deputy director general of China Manned Space Agency and China’s first man in space.

It was the first confirmation that China intended to fund and run a manned lunar programme.

Though no time frame was given, a government official said in 2016 that China wants to put astronauts on the moon by 2036.

Beijing sees its space programme as symbolising the country's progress and a marker of its rising global stature. A pedestrian is pictured walking past a propaganda post in Shanghai 

Beijing sees its space programme as symbolising the country's progress and a marker of its rising global stature. A pedestrian is pictured walking past a propaganda post in Shanghai 

Beijing sees its space programme as symbolising the country’s progress and a marker of its rising global stature. A pedestrian is pictured walking past a propaganda post in Shanghai 

China is pouring billions into its military-run space programme and working to catch up with the United States and Europe, with hopes to have a crewed outpost by 2022.

Russia and the United States have also carried out experiments to simulate conditions for long-term space travel and living on Mars.

Beijing sees the programme as symbolising the country’s progress and a marker of its rising global stature, but so far China has largely replicated activities that the United States and Soviet Union pioneered decades ago.

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