Eight Chinese volunteers will live in "Yuegong-1," a simulated space "cabin" in Beijing for the next year, strengthening China's knowledge and technical know-how, and helping the country's scientists understand exactly what will be required for humans to remain on the moon in the medium and long terms.
The volunteers, all civilians and elite postgraduate students from Beihang University, are divided into two groups. The first four stepped into Yuegong-1 last Wednesday.
The two men and two women will stay in the cabin for 60 days, then be replaced by the second group, also two men and two women, who will stay there for 200 days. After that, the first group will return for the remaining 105 days.
The experiment, code-named "Yuegong-365," is Beihang's second attempt to see how the Bioregenerative Life Support System (BLSS) works in a moon-like environment. A successful 105-day trial was conducted in 2014.
The BLSS is a system where animals, plants and microorganisms co-exist. Water and food can be recycled in the system, creating an earth-like environment.
"The BLSS is absolutely crucial to probes to the moon and to Mars," said Liu Zhiheng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. "The latest test is vital to the future of China's moon and Mars missions and must be relied upon to guarantee the safety and health of our astronauts."
Liu Hong, chief designer of "Yuegong-1," said that the purpose of the new program is to test the stability of the BLSS when astronauts with different metabolic rates take turns to live in the cabin and when they face sudden situations such as blackouts.