The Wentian space lab will help to greatly advance scientific research and the development of technology in China, providing a unique platform for experiments that are difficult or impossible to be done on Earth, a senior scientist said.
Zhang Wei, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization, said on Sunday in Wenchang, Hainan province, that although there are so many laboratories on the ground, a permanent space station has advantages.
Zhang’s center is responsible for making and implementing plans and schedules for scientific work on the Tiangong space station.
“First of all, a space station has a unique environment with physical features like microgravity. The microgravity, the result of the spacecraft’s fast orbiting speed, can help scientists to reveal some physical traits that ‘hide’ behind the gravity on Earth,” he said. “The microgravity will also allow for the development and mass production of special materials.”
Secondly, the orbiting infrastructure is an ideal place for astronomical and Earth observations, Zhang said.
“For instance, it has proved difficult to detect and record gamma ray, X-ray, ultraviolet, infrared and ultralong wave emissions on the ground due to the atmospheric absorption and interference, as well as the effects of human activities. In contrast, sensors on a space station can easily detect those astronomical elements.
“Similarly, observation with instruments in a space lab can cover as much as 90 percent of all land on Earth within just three days, enabling geoscience researchers to follow Earth movements in an efficient and timely manner,” the scientist said.
In addition, the long-term presence of astronauts means scientific hardware and experiments inside the space station can be taken better care of than on crewless spacecraft, and can also be repaired or adjusted any time if necessary.
Meanwhile, regular flights between Earth and the space station make it convenient to send new experiments and materials up and retrieve them, enabling scientists to observe and study what may have happened to them in outer space, Zhang said.
Hao Chun, director of the China Manned Space Agency, has pledged to make the best use of the Tiangong space station to advance space science, technology and application.
He said scientists can take advantage of the space environment to perform mutation breeding experiments, produce special medicines and create new materials, thus generating scientific, technological and economic benefits.
The agency has signed agreements with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs on space station cooperation.
The two organizations have jointly invited scientists from around the world to submit research proposals for an opportunity to conduct their own experiments aboard Tiangong.
Scientists from a number of foreign nations have started to participate in experiments on Tiangong, according to the official.