Moon sprouts: one small step for cotton, one giant step for China

17 January, 2019, 09:12 | Author: Sherry Houston
  • Seeds have sprouted on the moon for the first time. Pic CLEP

China's Xinhua news agency said that the seeds were rendered dormant using "biological technology" for the 20-day journey from Earth to the Moon.

The seeds began growing once they received water from the probe via a command from a ground control centre.

China became the first country to land a probe on the far side of the moon on January 3 when a rover named Yutu 2, or Jade Rabbit 2, touched down in the moon's largest and oldest impact crater, the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Last night, they announced their first breakthrough publishing a picture of cotton seed, bought up on Chang'e 4 actually growing.

"This (mission) has achieved the first biological experiment on the moon of human history, to sprout the first bud on the desolate moon".

The organisms will gradually decompose in the totally enclosed canister, and will not affect the lunar environment, said the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

It is the first time a soft landing has been performed on the Moon's far side - also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown - due to challenges relaying signals.

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Alongside the cotton seeds were those to grow potatoes, yeast, rapeseed, and other plants, scientists at Chongqing University who led the mission said, adding that those would provide oxygen and food for other living things to consume.

The lunar atmosphere is too thin to sustain life itself, but it had not previously been known whether it was possible for plants to grow within controlled conditions on the moon - although they had been grown on the International Space Station.

Professor Xie Gengxin, the Chinese scientist in charge of the lunar plant experiment, said if successful, the project would signal that China was catching up in space exploration.

The environment on the moon, 380,000 kilometers from Earth, is more complex. Boffins have had to build a small self-sustaining biosphere inside a sealed canister within the Chang'e-4 Moon lander.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations shared its glee on Twitter, saying, "China's moon mission success means that astronauts could potentially harvest their own food in space!"

This plant growth could support future long-term space exploration and habitation.

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