To simulate what it would be like to live for a long period of time inside a space station, four Chinese students will spend 200 days sealed inside two self-sustaining bunkers in the suburbs of Beijing.
The students, from the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, are part of an experiment aimed at creating a self-sufficient environment that recycles everything from urine to plant cuttings. The bunkers, which are known as Lunar Palace-1, will use minimal resources to keep the students alive for the better part of a year.
That might sound like a daunting amount of time for some, but the new residents of Lunar Palace-1 say that they’re thrilled to move a bit closer to their dream of becoming astronauts.
“I’ll get so much out of this,” said Liu Guanghui, a PhD student who entered the bunker on Sunday. “It’s truly a different life experience.”
Liu Hong, a professor at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, was the primary mastermind behind the “space station’s” design.
“We’ve designed it so the oxygen (produced by plants at the station) is exactly enough to satisfy the humans, the animals, and the organisms that break down the waste materials,” she said.
Liu and her students hope that this experiment will lead to greater discoveries about efficient survival in space. 200 days isn’t the longest anyone has stayed alive in a space station environment, but the project will still provide researchers with new information about life on the final frontier.
What they find could be especially important, considering the push for China to join the United States and Russia as a superpower in space travel. Experts at the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX), held last month in Beijing, even announced that China has plans to put a human on the moon in the not so distant future.
Although Liu is confident that the Lunar Palace-1 will help her students survive physically, she knows that their psychological needs are an entirely different concern. The students will spend around six-and-a-half months inside the bunkers, with little space and no sunlight, which can certainly take a toll on one’s mental health.
But, luckily for the students, they will be given a number of tasks each day to keep them busy, including conducting research inside their new home.
Liu Hui, who just finished living in the bunkers for 60 days, said that having tasks to perform helped her stay happy, but that she sometimes “felt a bit low” at night.
Of course, deprivation from sunlight can also cause a host of mental and physical health problems, but the scientists behind the project are treating those risks as part of the experiment.
If the students can make it through 200 days as human guinea pigs, at least they will emerge having learned something about themselves.
By Caroline Roy
[Images via People’s Daily]
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