Space station invites ideas on experiments

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The China Space Station is set to welcome aboard nine international scientific projects from 17 countries covering a wide range of research areas, the China Manned Space Agency and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs announced in June in Vienna, Austria. [Photo/]

China Space Station has invited online applications from across the country for suggestions on science and technology experiments to be conducted onboard.

Scientists, as well as high school and university students, are welcome to submit project proposals in more than a dozen research areas, including space life science, fluid science and basic physics.

The online application portal officially opened on Monday and will run until Aug 31.

The invitation follows the announcement by the China Manned Space Agency in June of the first batch of nine international cooperation projects involving 17 countries to be conducted on the space station.

"The international collaboration is to let the international community pay attention to the China Space Station and use the station to conduct experiments for the benefit of mankind, while the domestic work is in the hope that Chinese scientists can use the station as a national space laboratory and achieve major scientific breakthroughs," said Zhang Wei from the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

According to Zhang, the selected projects must be closely related to space conditions such as microgravity and space radiation, and they must be "innovative, original and practicable". The application process for submissions will be opened every two to three years.

The space station is to be put into use around 2022 then stay in orbit for more than 10 years.

The core cabin is expected to be launched in 2020 with the other two experimental cabins, which constitute a complete space station, two years later.

"During that decade, the station can support thousands of projects so there is no limit to the number of selected projects, the more the better," Zhang said.

He said the station will serve as an advanced space laboratory equipped with experiment racks inside the cabins.

"For example, in terms of basic physics, we have prepared an ultracold atomic rack for studies on some special physical laws of ultracold atomic gases under temperature of near absolute zero."

The station also provides external platforms for experimental payloads that can support research on both astronomical and earth observations, and space physics outside the cabins.

Most of the experiments will be performed autonomously by experimental devices operated via automated controls or remote control from Earth. Astronauts will also assist in some operations such as changing batch samples.

Scientists deemed physically fit for the program will also have the opportunity to fly to space to conduct their own experiments.

Zhang said previous experiments conducted on the Shenzhou spacecrafts and Tiangong-2 space lab have proved valuable to science, but the number of experiments carried out in space was limited.

"With the space station in place, we can have hundreds, even thousands of roving experiments going on, which will greatly improve China's space research level," Zhang said.

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