China's space station to carry out international payload experiments
A 1:10 scale model of China Space Station is displayed at an expo in Shanghai, May 10, 2023. /CFP
A 1:10 scale model of China Space Station is displayed at an expo in Shanghai, May 10, 2023. /CFP

A 1:10 scale model of China Space Station is displayed at an expo in Shanghai, May 10, 2023. /CFP

Experiments of the first batch of international payloads selected under cooperation between China and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) will soon take place on the Tiangong space station, the China Manned Space Agency said on Friday.

An agency spokesperson, Lin Xiqiang, made the remarks at a press conference. He added that 10 space application projects, jointly implemented with the European Space Agency (ESA), are in steady progress.

"We have conducted various exchanges and cooperation with space agencies of many countries and regions as well as international organizations involving spacecraft technology, space science experiments, and astronaut selection and training," said Lin.

Since the implementation of its manned space program, China has sent people overseas to participate in weightless aircraft training, cave training and the Mars500 study. It has also led several large international cooperation projects, including astronauts' sea survival training and research on cardiovascular function in weightlessness.

Ye Guangfu, a member of the Shenzhou-13 crew, was the first taikonaut to complete cave training through international cooperation.

"China has so far signed cooperation framework agreements with the UNOOSA, ESA and space agencies of Russia, France, Germany, Italy and Pakistan," said Lin, highlighting that some have been successfully implemented, and some space station-related cooperation projects are under preparation.

"We welcome astronauts from other countries to carry out experiments on the Chinese space station," Lin added.

Preparations for foreign astronaut training are proceeding as planned.

Functioning as a lab

China's orbiting space station, which functions as a national space laboratory, has been put into operation, pushing forward space applications and achieving fruitful results.

A total of 110 in-orbit science research and application projects have been implemented, involving space life science and human body research, microgravity physics, and new space technologies, making multiple world's firsts, said Lin.

Almost 100 TB of original experimental data have been acquired, and nearly 300 experimental samples returned, including the seeds of rice that had undergone a 120-day life cycle in the space station, he added.

The life-cycle growth experiment of rice is the first in the world, and the discovery of functional gene regulation would promote the breeding of new rice varieties, said Wang Qiang, deputy commander-in-chief of the space application system of China's manned space program.

A new alloy material was another breakthrough obtained on the space station, which might be applied in aerospace, nuclear power and other industries, said Wang.

Many research results obtained in the space lab have brought benefits to Earth. Over 4,000 items of achievements obtained through China's manned space program have been used to serve the national economy and people's livelihood.

More than 3,000 space breeding experiments have been carried out on spaceflight missions, cultivating 240-plus varieties of staple grains and 400-plus new vegetable, fruit, plant and flower varieties. This has resulted in an annual grain output increase of 2.6 billion kilograms.

More scientific discoveries to find

The space station is also expected to obtain pivotal scientific discoveries and innovative achievements in the future.

Lin said it could hopefully produce groundbreaking scientific discoveries on cosmology, dark matter and dark energy, galaxies, active galactic nuclei, the Milky Way and its close galaxies, star formation and evolution, and exoplanets.

The space lab's ultra-cold atomic physics experiment platform will prepare the quantum gas close to absolute zero, which cannot occur on the ground.

Also, the in-orbit research on stem cells, organ chips, protein crystallization, and synthetic biology manufacturing could bring new possibilities for regenerative medicine, precision medicine, and drug discovery, said Lin.

(With input from Xinhua)

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