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China to build expanded undersea lab, extend duration of scientific missions

(People's Daily Online)    16:32, March 09, 2017

China's deep sea manned submersible Jiaolong (file photo)

China will build an undersea laboratory that is able to simultaneously accommodate dozens of people, said Yan Kai, an NPC deputy and director of China's national key lab for deep sea equipment, according to a Science and Technology Daily report on March 9.

"China's deep sea manned submersible Jiaolong can stay in the water for 12 hours and accommodate a few workers; however, the future deep sea ‘space station' could potentially remain underwater for two weeks or even up to several months," Yan explained.

Wan Gang, China's minister of science and technology, explained at a national science and technology work conference in January that the deep sea station program is one of the country's "2030 Major Projects" in science and technology, and preparation for the project has already begun.

According to Yan, building a deep sea station is no less demanding or difficult than establishing an orbiting space station. The deep sea station must possess a variety of operating equipment, including a small manned submersible in which scientists can travel to and from the seabed. Scientists will also cultivate and study deep sea creatures, explore deep sea minerals, oil and gas, and seek deep sea genes for medical use.

Energy is a perennial issue for long stays underwater, but fuel cells and nuclear power offer possible solutions, and new energies may be found in the deep sea, said Yan.

The establishment of a deep sea station also involves considerable technological challenges. For example, deep sea exploration requires light, strong and pressure-resistant materials that are difficult to manufacture. In addition, communication, navigation and precise control in the deep sea are essential considerations. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Du Mingming, Bianji)

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