As China continues to push for its first manned mission to the Moon, four volunteers will live in a sealed laboratory for 200 days, cut off from the rest of humanity, in what is the second part of the mission preparation. The three modules that make up the lab, named Yuegong-1, or Moon Palace, will have its bioregenerative life support system (BLSS) tested to ensure it is ready for the taikonauts’ future journey. The Moon Palace will be expected to provide a working environment, accommodation and food for Chinese researchers on the Moon.
Consisting of living quarters and two biocultivation modules, Yuegong-1 is supposed to be a fully sustainable system that produces little to no waste. Human waste will be repurposed as plant fertilizer, which will in turn produce enough food and oxygen for the crew to survive. The current volunteers are replacing the first group who spent 60 days in the system, and will be relieved in 200 days by a different batch of volunteers who will take on the final 105 days of the year-long experimentation period.
China has been ramping up efforts to send a manned mission to the Moon, after successfully pulling off a soft-landing in December 2013, joining the United States and Russia as the only countries to have achieved such a feat. Currently, China is slated to send its’ taikonauts within the next 20 years, paralleled by NASA’s timeline to send a manned mission to Mars. Both countries have severed ties in joint space exploration after Congress cited security concerns in 2011.
Despite this, China has continued with its’ space program explaining they are only looking for a peaceful collaboration with other nations in a day and age where space exploration isn’t just fantasy, but a looming reality, as a press release from Beihang University, where the experimentation is taking place, explained:
“As the longest one of its kind in the world, [the experiment] will help develop the technologies necessary for the guarantee of astronauts’ security and life quality in medium and long-term space explorations.”
Yuegong-1 has so far seen no major issues since launch – a sign that their life support system could be in working order. Whilst we still have a while before we see a Chinese laboratory on the surface of the Moon, or a manned American landing of Mars, the next decades promise to be rife with technological advancements and developments. It sure is a great time to be a space enthusiast!