The Lunar Palace 365 experiment was launched by Beihang’s Lunar Palace research team in Lunar Palace 1, a simulated space cabin for bio-regenerative life-support systems experiments, on May 10th, 2017.
The 365-day experiment is aimed at testing the reliability of the Bioregenerative Life Support System (BLSS) when it works in a moon-environment with crews of different metabolic rates and sudden breakdowns.
Eight volunteers, all postgraduates of Beihang, are divided into two teams taking turns to live in the cabin and will conduct the experiment in three shifts.
As the longest one of its kind in the world, it will help develop the technologies necessary for the guarantee of astronauts’security and life quality in medium and long-term deep space explorations.
A second group of four Chinese volunteers has entered a sealed, bioregenerative laboratory as part of a year-long trial to test the ability of humans to make prolonged stays at a future Moon base.
The second batch entered Lunar Palace-1, joining the first group of four who were just completing their 60-day stay.
The 10-hour transitional phase marked the start of the second group’s 200-day stay, during which the students recycle or re-use everything possible, including the air, plant matter, urine and more.
The “Lunar Palace 365” research project involves eight postgraduate students from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (BUAA), also known as Beihang, who will stay in the Lunar Palace-1 capsule for 365 days.
The first set of volunteers will replace them for the final 105-day stretch of the experiment.
The 160-square-metre and 500-cubic-metre Lunar Palace-1 is a fully closed laboratory designed to simulate long-duration, self-contained missions with no outside input.
With a full title of ‘Integrative Experimental Facility for Permanent Astrobase Life-support Artificial Closed Ecosystem (PALACE) Research’, it is the first bioregenerative life-support base developed in China, and the third worldwide.
The project is cited as providing a base of research for China’s future lunar surface missions.
In December 2016, another research mission designed to assist China’s plans for future deep space human exploration, Space 180, was completed in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province.
In April, China’s first cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-1, was launched to undertake refuelling tests with the Tiangong-2 space lab in orbit, marking a huge step forward in the country’s plans for a large, modular space station.
However, the low Earth orbit project, which will be permanently crewed, suffered a potential setback to its schedule when China’s second Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket failed to reach orbit.
The Lunar Palace-1 advanced closed-loop life support facility consists of two plant cultivation modules and an integrated module which includes a living room, work room, bathroom and a waste-disposal room.
A variety of experimental crops and vegetables will be grown for the duration of the project. Human waste will be handled within the capsule by a bio-fermentation process. Food residue and other by-products will be treated with bio-techniques and used for plant cultivation.
Construction of the Lunar Palace 1 capsule began in March 2013. The facility was unveiled in January 2014, and was commissioned just prior to the first mission starting in February 2014.
The previous mission involved three volunteers who spent 105 days inside the facility.
Before Lunar Palace 1, Russia and the United States developed two-level bioregenerative systems which only involved plants and humans.