Credit: CCTV-Plus

 

A Chinese crew of eight is undertaking a year-long stint in the Lunar Palace 1 laboratory, called China’s first bioregenerative life support system.

The effort is dubbed “The Lunar Palace 365 Project and involves eight postgraduate students from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (BUAA). They will live inside the 160-square-meter, 500-cubic-meter Lunar Palace 1 capsule for the next 365 days.

Self-contained

The volunteers will be living and working inside the fully closed laboratory where they can simulate a long-duration, self-contained mission with no outside inputs, according to an interview carried by CCTV-Plus. “The project is aimed at laying the groundwork for China’s lunar surface missions in the future,” they report.

Inside look at one area of China’s Lunar Palace 1.
Credit: CMSE

Lunar Palace 1 was developed by researchers at BUAA, a shorthand version that stands for Integrative Experimental Facility for Permanent Astrobase Life-support Artificial Closed Ecosystem (PALACE) Research.

Four-level life support

According to Liu Hong, the chief designer of Lunar Palace 1 from Beihang University, the self-contained facility is more advanced than what Russia and the United States have built and utilized previously.

“Before Lunar Palace 1, Russia and the United States developed two-level bioregenerative systems which only involved plants and humans,” Liu says. “But what we have built is a four-level life-support system involving plants, animals, microorganisms and humans, which is much more stable in a fully closed condition. It is by far the first of its kind in the world,” the researcher noted in a CCTV-Plus posted interview.

Reports Beijing Daily, the eight volunteers are members of Liu’s research team.

Team rotation

The facility consists of two plant cultivation modules, and one integrated module that has a living room, a work room, a bathroom and a waste-disposal room.

China’s Lunar Palace 1 – an experimental biosphere here on Earth.
Credit: CMSE

A variety of experimental crops and vegetables will be grown for the duration of the project. Human waste will be handled within the place by a bio-fermentation process. Food residue and other byproducts will be treated by bio-techniques and used for plant cultivation.

The volunteers will carry out the experiment in rotation. Specifically, Team One will spend the first 60 days inside the capsule, after which Team Two will spend another 200 days. Lastly, Team One will spend the remaining 105 days, thus completing the 365-day research mission.

Construction on the Lunar Palace 1 capsule began in March 2013. The facility was unveiled in January 2014, and it was commissioned just prior to the first mission starting in February 2014.

The last mission involved three volunteers who spent 105 days inside the facility.

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