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Asia Minute: China’s Moon Shot Sparks Training in Earth’s “Moon Palace”

Six crew members are working their way through a University of Hawai‘i project simulating an 8 month mission on Mars. The team has completed nearly three-quarters of its time with the Hawai‘i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or “HI-SEAS,” program on the slopes of Mauna Loa on Hawai‘i Island. In China, a smaller group has just started a similar mission with some differences. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Four volunteers will spend the next 200 days sealed inside a laboratory at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

It’s all part of a project aimed at establishing a long-term colony on the moon.

For the moment, the focus is on the closed laboratory—nicknamed “the moon palace.”

It’s about 1,700 square feet—with two modules for plant cultivation and a living space.

The Communist Party’s Peoples’ Daily reports the volunteers are all graduate students. And starting this past Sunday, they’ll be isolated from any contact with the outside world for nearly seven months.

Part of the experiment is physical—recycling everything from plant waste to human waste. But the bigger challenge may be psychological.

The main designer of the lab said depression is one danger – adding that “if you spend a long time in this type of environment it can create some psychological problems.”

The current crew replaces a group that’s been in the lab for 60 days and will be followed by a third group staying for 105 days – adding up to a full year.

China wants to put a person on the moon within the next 15 to 20 years, and then think about a colony.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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