Four students from the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in China have become guinea-pigs for a mission to simulate how it would feel to live in a mock, self-sustaining space station on another planet.
On Sunday, the students entered the Lunar Palace-1 with the goal of successfully living there, on their own, for 100 days. They will be recycling everything from plant cuttings to urine as part of a project that seeks to create an ecosystem that provides everything humans need to survive.
The participants hope to gain necessary experience in order to, one day, carry out their dream to become astronauts.
“I’ll get so much out of this,” Liu Guanghui, a Ph.D. student, who entered the bunker on Sunday, told Reuters. “It’s truly a different life experience.”
Their home for the next few months, the mock space station, consists of four bed cubicles, a common room, a washroom, a waste-treatment room and an animal-raising room, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency. A bio-fermentation process will be used to treat human waste and used to help grow vegetables and other crops.
As China seeks to become a global power in space exploration, President Xi Jinping hopes to send the first probe to the dark side of the moon by 2018 and aims to put astronauts on the moon by 2036.
Liu Hong, a professor at the University and the project’s principal architect, said everything had been calculated to ensure successful human survival during the entirety of their stay.
“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 said.
The students’ experience of living in a module without sunlight was initially tested using animals.
“We did this experiment with animals… so we want to see how much impact it will have on people,” Hong said.
The project will also test the psychological impact of spending long periods of time in a confined space.
“They can become a bit depressed,” the professor said. “If you spend a long time in this type of environment it can create some psychological problems.”
To negate this, the project’s support team designed sets of daily tasks for the students with hopes of keeping them content during their long mission.