The Moon, is it worth going back? Image credit: @penguinbush.
Officials at the Chinese space program, which has yet to send an astronaut to the Moon, have announced plans to build a greenhouse there.
Chinese astronauts may get fresh vegetables and oxygen supplies by gardening in extraterrestrial bases in the future, an official said after a just-concluded lab experiment in Beijing.
Deng Yibing, deputy director of the Beijing-based Chinese Astronaut Research and Training Center, said that the experiment focused on a dynamic balanced mechanism of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water between people and plants in a closed system.
According to Deng, a cabin of 300 cubic meters was established to provide sustainable supplies of air, water and food for two participants during the experiment.
Four kinds of vegetables were grown, taking in carbon dioxide and providing oxygen for the two people living in the cabin. They could also harvest fresh vegetables for meals, Deng said.
The experiment, the first of its kind in China, is extremely important for the long-term development of China’s manned space program, Deng added.
The scientific value of sending humans back to the Moon is highly debatable, especially given the massively higher cost of transporting astronauts (as opposed to robots) safely to the Moon, and, more importantly, bringing them back.
Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal‘s Bob Davis accused China of rehashing the space race of the 1960s and ‘playing catchup’ with the US and Russia, rather than engaging in worthwhile space exploration.
Although the U.S. rarely admits it, the U.S. has learned from its more than 60 years in space that humans are the weak link in space exploration. Space radiation kills us; weightlessness weakens us; isolation makes us melancholy. Our puny life expectancy makes it nearly impossible to explore even the outer reaches of our solar system, even if we had the technology to do so.
The U.S. Apollo moon program ended early because of the cost and because of a lack of purpose. Americans hit golf balls on the moon and drove around in lunar jalopies – cars and golf being two American obsessions. What would Chinese astronauts do differently? Play ping pong?