China is asking the world to collaborate in experiments on its planned space station so as to promote international space cooperation and sustainable global development.
The Committee on Science and Technology Experiments of the Chinese Space Station was established recently under the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).
The offer is open to the entire international community. Proposals and projects can be submitted online (www.css-research.cn) and peer-reviewed. The candidate projects will go through to the China Manned Space Agency.
China is accelerating its timetable for the Tiangong space station, with the Tianhe core capsule expected to be launched in 2020. The whole station is due for completion around 2022.
Weighing 66 tonnes, it will comprise Tianhe and the Wentian and Mengtian lab capsules. The station could be enlarged to 180 tonnes if required for scientific research. It could accommodate three to six astronauts and is designed to last at least 10 years, but this could be prolonged through in-orbit maintenance, said Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China's manned space program.
Cargo ships and manned spacecraft will travel from Earth to service the station. Once it's fully commissioned, experiments will be conducted in space.
Its main purpose will be cutting-edge scientific research, including space medicines, space life sciences and biotechnology, material sciences, microgravity basic physics, astronomy and astrophysics, said Zhou.
"We are looking forward to experiments to better sustain space exploration. We also expect China's space station to be an in-space incubator of new technologies that can improve people's lives," said Zhang Hongtai, president of CAST.
CAST might also provide opportunities to conduct some international cooperation experiments on other spacecraft or satellites, said Zhang.
"China is further opening up, and space exploration is a shared challenge for China and other countries. We hope to solicit and evaluate experiments with common international practices, and select the most promising and innovative projects. The research data will be shared by the international community," said Bao Weimin, chairman of the newly established committee and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The committee comprises 14 Chinese scientists, and scientists from other countries are welcome to participate, Bao said. It is based in the Qian Xuesen Laboratory of Space Technology under CAST, which focuses on the development of new space technologies.
"We welcome scientists around the globe to submit projects or to become peer-review experts. We hope to have in-depth cooperation," said Chen Hong, head of the Qian Xuesen Laboratory.
"We'd like to provide engineering consultation and support for the international cooperation projects to ensure the implementation of cutting-edge experiments on the space station," said Long Jiang, head of the Institute of Manned Space System Engineering under CAST, the main manufacturer of China's space station.
To stimulate interest in young people and foster their imaginations and creativity, a special program, the Youth Program of Scientific Education Experiment on the Chinese Space Station, was launched at the beginning of 2018.
The program has collected nearly 200 youth education experiments nationwide, and selected a preliminary list of 30 projects. The program is mainly for primary and middle school students. "We also welcome young students from around the world to participate," said Yao Wei, a researcher at the Qian Xuesen Laboratory.