4 emerge af­ter 6-month ‘Mars trip’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Af­ter spend­ing 180 days sealed in a “space cap­sule” in Shen­zhen, Guang­dong prov­ince, in an ex­per­i­ment to sim­u­late a long jour­ney to Mars, four vol­un­teers fi­nally got to “re­turn” to Earth on Wed­nes­day as the ex­per­i­ment con­cluded.

The three men and one woman emerged from their 370-square-me­ter, eight-cabin mod­ule at the Space In­sti­tute of South­ern China to a wel­come by of­fi­cials and sci­en­tists work­ing on China’s space ex­plo­ration pro­gram.

Two of the vol­un­teers, commander Tang Yongkang and Tong Feizhou, the fe­male vol­un­teer, are re­searchers at the As­tro­naut Cen­ter of China, while the others, Luo Jie and Wu Shiyun, are mem­bers of the pub­lic who ap­plied to take part in the ex­per­i­ment, ac­cord­ing to the cen­ter.

The vol­un­teers were sealed in the mod­ule on June 17 and be­gan to live on Mars time through­out the ex­per­i­ment,

mean­ing days within the mod­ule lasted 24 hours and 40 min­utes. They were sealed off from the Earth’s sun­light and had to read­just to the longer days.

Sev­eral Chi­nese and in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions par­tic­i­pated, in­clud­ing the as­tro­naut cen­ter, Har­vard Univer­sity and the Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter.

Li Yinghui, a se­nior of­fi­cial at the China Manned Space Agency, who over­saw the pro­ject, said at the cel­e­bra­tion cer­e­mony that the vol­un­teers tested equip­ment as­so­ci­ated with the Con­trolled Eco­log­i­cal Life-Sup­port Sys­tem and car­ried out med­i­cal ex­per­i­ments on their phys­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal and emo­tional states.

Sev­eral of the vol­un­teers said they were bored at the start of the ex­per­i­ment, but soon ad­justed. Their rou­tine in­cluded ex­er­cise and work within the mod­ule.

All oxy­gen, 99 per­cent of the wa­ter and 70 per­cent of the food the group con­sumed was reused or pro­duced within the mod­ule. They were able to grow 25 species of plants, in­clud­ing soy­beans, peanuts, toma­toes and straw­ber­ries.

“The ex­per­i­ment has ex­panded our knowl­edge in en­vi­ron­men­tal con­trol and life sup­port of manned space mis­sions,” Li said. “It helps us to ex­plore life sup­port tech­nolo­gies to be used for manned bases on other plan­ets, and also helps with the de­sign of our manned space sta­tion.”

Chi­nese sci­en­tists and en­gi­neers are de­vel­op­ing a manned sta­tion that will be built in space in 2018 and is ex­pected to en­ter ser­vice around 2022.

The fa­cil­ity is ex­pected to be the world’s only space sta­tion af­ter the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion is re­tired in 2024, ac­cord­ing to Chi­nese of­fi­cials.

Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Zhang Yulin, deputy head of the Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion’s Equip­ment De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment, also said in April that China aims to land as­tro­nauts on the moon in 15 to 20 years.

MAO SIQIAN / XIN­HUA

Four vol­un­teers emerge from a mock space cap­sule on Wed­nes­day in Shen­zhen.

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