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China Wants Astronauts To Be on the Moon For 'Long Periods of Time.' How Plausible Is It?

File photo of the moon. Cedits: Reuters.

File photo of the moon. Cedits: Reuters.

China has mapped out a series of uncrewed missions this decade, including the setting up of a robotic base to explore the moon’s south polar region, ahead of manned landings.

To the moon - and to stay there, may be the way forward for China.

Once China establishes a lunar research station, its astronauts will stay on the moon for long periods of time as they conduct scientific studies, state media reported on Sunday, citing the architect of China’s lunar programme.

China has mapped out a series of uncrewed missions this decade, including the setting up of a robotic base to explore the moon’s south polar region, ahead of manned landings.

“If the lunar research station project is successfully implemented, China will not be far away from achieving manned landings,” said Wu Weiren, the chief designer of China’s lunar exploration programme.

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Last week, China and Russia signed an initial pact to set up an international lunar research station, but did not disclose a timeline.

“Compared to American astronauts who could only stay for tens of hours after landing on the moon, Chinese astronauts will stay on the moon for a longer period of time,” Wu said.

“This will be a long-term stay on the moon, not a short-term stop.”

According to NASA, The ISS missions, called expeditions, usually last about six months. There are three to six crew members on board at all times. Professional astronaut crews come from the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe. NASA astronaut Mike Lopez-Alegria has flown the longest U.S. space station mission to date, at 215 days. Valeri Polyakov, a Russian cosmonaut, spent 437 days in space during one mission. A space shuttle crew is typically five to seven crewmembers. We have carried as few as two and as many as eight at one time, and space shuttle missions have been as short as two days and as long as 18 days.

Space, however, doesn’t have great effects on your body - A ‘normal’ body will adapt to the ‘abnormal’ environment of space in many ways. Immediately upon entering zero gravity, fluids in your legs and the lower part of your body move upwards towards your head. In fact, your face will feel and look swollen. Except for the occasional headache and congestion, astronauts aren’t bothered by this fluid shift. Some astronauts feel dizzy and have an upset stomach during the first few days of a space flight as they get used to zero gravity. This

feeling usually goes away after three or four days. After a few days almost everyone is used to zero gravity and feels great. If you don’t exercise, your bones and muscles will get weak. Upon return to Earth, you must get used to gravity again. Sometimes this makes you feel dizzy or queasy. If you are returning from a two week flight, readjusting might take a day or two. If you are returning from

a six month flight, it may take several weeks to feel ‘normal’ again.

China has successfully launched a series of lunar missions in recent years, including an uncrewed retrieval of lunar rocks last year, the first by any nation since 1976.

But China still lags behind the United States in experience, expertise and technology.

NASA plans to return astronauts to the moon’s surface by 2024. The last NASA crewed landing was in 1972.

Chinese rockets currently do not have sufficient thrust to send astronauts to the moon, Wu said, but China aims to make breakthroughs in rocket design in 2021-2025.

In China’s next mission to the moon, lunar samples of the south pole will be retrieved, he said.

Subsequent missions will involve a detailed survey of resources in the south pole, and the testing of key technologies in preparation for the construction of the research station, Wu said.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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