Mars missions in the next few years but they still sound extremely far fetched, but the world is preparing for them. Four students from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics have entered the 200-day isolation experiment called Lunar Palace 365 to test living with the limited resources that will be available on Moon or Mars.
The Lunar Palace-1 habitat designed for the experiment is packed with resources to help sustain life for 200 days but to make it happens the team will generate oxygen from plants, recycle urine water for drinking, and live on extremely limited supplies. The principal architect of the project, Professor Liu Hing from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics says that all requirements have been acutely calculated. “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 added.
The integral part of this experiment is not the physical conditions but the psychological impacts of being confined in such a small place for so long. A 60-days experiment has just been completed in the same habitat, and one of the participants reported feeling low on some of her days. A bunch of activities and tasks have been designed to keep the team busy, so they do not fall into depression.
The student group looks excited and motivated to become a part of the experiment that is meant as a step to fulfill China’s dream to become a world leader in space exploration. Similar tests have been conducted in the past and for longer durations but this is the first from China, competing with the US and Russia. China is planning to send the first probes to the dark side of the moon by 2018 and even put astronauts on the moon by 2036. The Lunar Palace 365 is just an experiment to facilitate longer stays there.