China has selected nine scientific experiments – including a project to study the mutation of DNA in space – to fly its first major space station, whose completion is expected in 2022.
The China Apparel Space Agency has selected the projects, involving scientists from 17 out of 42 countries, as part of a process organized with the United Nations Office for Space Affairs (UNOOSA).
The existing Chinese space laboratory, Tiangong-2, launched in 2016, also hosts experiments, but the new space station will be bigger and should last longer. Known as the China Space Station, this outpost will be less than a quarter of the International Space Station (ISS) mass.
The scientific projects cover topics similar to the experiments conducted on the ISS since its launch in 1998, including fluid and fire behavior, biology and astronomy.
Scientists working on these projects come from countries such as Russia, Japan and India, as well as from low- and middle-income countries, including Kenya, Mexico and Peru, as a result of a special effort to encourage the participation of these countries. "The cooperation takes into account the special needs of developing countries, which have been encouraged to submit joint project applications with developed countries," said Wang Qun, China's ambassador to the UN in Vienna, in a statement. a statement.
The experiments include an Indo-Russian observatory called Nebular Gas Spectroscopic Investigations, which will map dust clouds and star-shaped space regions using ultraviolet light. At the same time, a group of European institutions will study the effects of microgravity and space-based radiation on DNA mutation in human "organoids" – three-dimensional organ-imitating biological structures. And a Saudi team will test the operation of solar cells outside the space station.
Other winners include a detector called POLAR-2, a more powerful tracking of a sensor launched on Tiangong-2 to study the polarization of energy gamma-ray bursts from distant cosmic phenomena. POLAR-2, which will be built through international collaboration, could even allow astronomers to observe the low radiation associated with gravitational wave sources.
But none of the experiments come from the United States, which banned since 2011 NASA researchers to collaborate with China without the approval of Congress. A spokesman for UNOOSA said Nature US scientists were eligible to participate and were involved in several applications, but these projects were ultimately not selected.
The United States plans to reduce their funding for the ISS from 2024 as they focus their space efforts on building an outpost on the Moon's orbit from 2022 onwards. This could mean that the Chinese space station will become the only laboratory of scientists in low Earth orbit of 2024.
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