China calls on scientists to study ultra-large spacecraft

One of the largest spacecraft ever to head into orbit was the space shuttle, which has been retired for many years. Current generation spacecraft that carry astronauts into space are rather small, looking more like capsules from the Apollo era than the space shuttle. In some ways, a massive spacecraft would make it easier to travel into deep space to explore Mars and other objects of interest.

A massive spacecraft have more room for fuel, food, and water for crew exploring the cosmos. China's National Natural Science Foundation is calling on scientists to participate in a project that will span a half-decade to study the mechanics of what it calls "ultra-large spacecraft spanning kilometers." A massive spacecraft on this scale would be built in orbit as it would be unable to launch from the surface.

Presumably, astronauts would leave the earth in something like current-generation capsules and dock with the massive spacecraft in orbit before heading to their mission destination. China says the mission is part of an effort that is called a major strategic aerospace project. China says it would ensure the future use of space resources and allow for exploration of the mysteries of the universe.

A spacecraft built on this scale would be able to stay in orbit for long periods. Even the idea of the project sounds like something out of science fiction where we routinely see gigantic ships filled with gardens and living quarters that are essentially self-sufficient.

One odd aspect of the plan is that the budget is $2.3 million. The assumption is that amount is for the feasibility study alone. You couldn't begin to build even a small capsule for that amount of money. It's a safe bet that a spacecraft that is miles long would cost billions, if not trillions of dollars.