Mind-controlled tech to aid astronauts

Updated: 2016-10-10 07:53

By Zhao Lei(China Daily)

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Chinese space scientists are developing technologies that will allow astronauts to use their thoughts to control equipment in spacecraft, according to the China Manned Space Agency.

The China Astronaut Research and Training Center's National Key Laboratory of Human Factors Engineering has been working with Tianjin University on the development of a human brain-to-computer test system, information about which is on display at the 2016 International Simulation Expo, which opened in Beijing on Sunday.

The system will translate astronauts' brain impulses into words to communicate with ground control and operate instruments in spacecraft.

The goal is to improve the efficiency of astronauts' interaction and coordination with machines.

The system will be tested by astronauts during a real spaceflight, making it the first such experiment in the world, and the process uses astronauts' thoughts and does not require manual movements.

Wang Ya'nan, editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told China Daily that mind-controlled technologies were first developed in the biomedicine field to help people with physical disabilities but are now to be utilized in the aviation and space industries.

"Aviation and space engineers around the world are exploring the technologies because they can enable pilots and astronauts to perform multiple tasks simultaneously," Wang said, adding that mind-controlled systems could also be useful in unmanned aircraft operations as well as long-distance military missions.

Researchers in the United States and Europe have been researching and testing mind-controlled flight for several years, Wang said.

China will soon launch the Shenzhou XI spacecraft to transport two male astronauts to the Tiangong II space lab that was launched into space in mid-September. The astronauts will stay in the lab for one month.

China plans to launch the core module of its first manned space station in about 2018, with construction of the three-part space station to be completed before the end of 2022, according to the space agency.

China might be the only country to have a space station in service in 2024, when the International Space Station is set to retire, said Lei Fanpei, chairman of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

Upon its completion, astronauts will be able to live in the station - which has a designed lifespan of 10 years - for more than one year per mission, Lei said.