Chinese volunteers conclude 370-day stay in self-contained simulated lunar base

Four students exited the Yuegong-1, or Lunar Palace 1, at Beihang University in Beijing on Tuesday, marking the success of China's "Lunar Palace 365" experiment.

The project was designed to test the performance of the relevant devices in a simulated lunar base environment, and examine how humans can mentally and physically cope in such conditions. 

A total of eight student volunteers had taken turns living in the cabin over the past 370 days, relying on oxygen, water and food recycled within a bio-regenerative life support system.

Since May 10th last year, the homegrown system achieved nearly 100% self-sufficiency while being proven stable and effective in providing life support.

But Liu Hong, chief designer of the lab, suggests further space-flight tests are necessary before the technology can be fully applied.

"If this technology is really to be used in space, it is necessary to carry out some space-flight related experiments, for example, boarding lunar probes, Mars probes and space stations, to obtain corrective parameters via spatial comparisons."

Researchers now will evaluate the physical and mental conditions of the volunteers, study test results, and downsize the life support equipment.

Wang Jun at the Chinese Academy of Engineering says the experience of the simulation test will be conducive for future space exploration efforts.

"The 'Lunar Palace 365' will benefit China's lunar exploration project, helping us achieve long-term stays on the moon and conduct scientific research or resource exploitation there. When we explore Mars in the future, which takes more than 500 days roundtrip from the earth, we can't live without this system, both during the journey and the long-stay on Mars."

The 150-square-meter Lunar Palace lab consists of three cabins used to accommodate the volunteers and to grow food.

During the experiment, the participants had to deal with a common challenge. 

"The main thing was that we were closed off in a self-contained space and couldn't come out. It was hard at the beginning, but then we were used to it."

An unexpected five-day extension was announced just before the conclusion of the experiment to test the volunteers' ability to cope with a sudden change. 

The previous record of the longest stay in a self-contained cabin was set in the former Soviet Union, where three people stayed for 180 days in a similar closed ecosystem in the early 1970s.

For CRI, this is Fu Yu.

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