Three ma­jor ex­per­i­ments on Tian­gong II

China Daily (USA) - - TOP NEWS - — PENG YINING

1. Grow­ing plants in space, di­rected by In­sti­tute of Plant Phys­i­ol­ogy and Ecol­ogy at the Shang­hai In­sti­tutes for Bi­o­log­i­cal Sci­ences In the movie The Mar­tian, as­tro­naut Mark Wat­ney sur­vives on the Red Planet by grow­ing pota­toes. In re­al­ity, grow­ing plants in space is much harder. On Tian­gong II, sci­en­tists have built a mini “green­house”, with con­trolled tem­per­a­ture and light. Rice and mouse-ear cress will be grown.

“China will con­duct its first seed-to-seed ex­per­i­ment in space through Tian­gong II,” Zheng Huiqiong, sci­ences pro­fes­sor at the Shang­hai in­sti­tutes, said in an in­ter­view with China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion.

She said that be­fore the launch of the Tian­gong space lab, most bi­o­log­i­cal ex­per­i­ments in space were limited to 20 days, and it was im­pos­si­ble for higher forms of plants to fin­ish a life cy­cle. China has never con­ducted a full seed-to-seed growth cy­cle ex­per­i­ment in space.

2. Cold atomic clock ex­per­i­ment in space, di­rected by the Shang­hai In­sti­tute of Op­tics and Fine Me­chan­ics at the Chi­nese Acad­emy of Sci­ences Tian­gong II will be equipped with a cut­ting-edge cold atomic clock, which can mea­sure time more ac­cu­rately and in­crease the pre­ci­sion of nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems.

The clock, which uses atomic tran­si­tions to mea­sure time, took more than 10 years for Chi­nese sci­en­tists to de­velop. It will be the world’s first “cold” atomic clock used to con­duct ex­per­i­ments in space, ac­cord­ing to an an­nounce­ment from CAS ear­lier this year. The clock’s first space­flight can raise the space­craft’s au­ton­o­mous pre­ci­sion by two or­ders of mag­ni­tude, a sub­stan­tial in­crease in nav­i­ga­tion and po­si­tion­ing ac­cu­racy.

3. Gamma ray de­tec­tor

PO­LAR, di­rected by the Chi­nese Acad­emy of Sci­ences

Tian­gong II also can ob­serve gamma rays us­ing the de­tec­tor named PO­LAR, a project de­vel­oped through col­lab­o­ra­tion among China, Switzer­land and Poland. It’s the only ex­per­i­ment in­volv­ing in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion.

Com­pleted in 2015, PO­LAR can mea­sure the po­lar­iza­tion of hard X-ray pho­tons, in par­tic­u­lar the po­lar­iza­tion of prompt pho­tons from gamma ray bursts.

Tools of high en­ergy physics, such as PO­LAR, are used to de­tect and char­ac­ter­ize gamma ray pho­tons and al­low sci­en­tists to ob­serve the cos­mos.

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