Chinese researchers sprout seeds on the moon for first time ever

James Marshall
January 21, 2019

The breakthrough is seen as key to future space missions, as the ability to grow plants could be key to longer-term missions such as journeys to Mars.

The experiment's chief designer, Xie Gengxin of Chongqing University, told Xinhua that life inside the canister would not survive the lander's first lunar night, which started on Sunday. Aside from Russian Federation and the United States, it is the only other country to reach the moon. This mission has launched China into space race. Inside you'll find soil, yeast, fruit fly and silkworm eggs, as well as cotton, potato, tomato, and (flowering) thale cress seeds.

On January 3, China's Chang'e 4 lander made history by completing the first successful landing on the far side of the moon.

According to Wu, NASA offered to help China observe Chang'e 4's touchdown using the American space agency's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

They began growing once ground control centre sent a command to the probe to water the seeds. Cotton seeds were the first to sprout after which rapeseed and potato seeds emerged.

Along with a number of sophisticated scientific instruments, the mission's lunar lander carried a sealed container, the lunar mini biosphere experiment. The temperature can range from -173C to 100C.

The People's Daily, the official state media for China's ruling Communist Party, tweeted a picture of the experiment, and claimed it is "humankind's first biological experiment on the Moon". We could probably make some nice sweaters from moon-grown cotton.

Global discussions about sending humans to the Moon and Mars have brought many challenges waiting to be solved, and among them is food supply.

According to Fred Watson of the Australian Astronomical Observatory, the development represented a step in the right direction.

"It suggests that there might not be insurmountable problems for astronauts in future trying to grow their own crops on the moon in a controlled environment". But at a news conference this week, Wu Yanhua, deputy director of CNSA, said the two space agencies shared data related to the recent moon landing.

Weeks ago, China became the first nation to land a lunar rover on the dark side of the Moon, marking a historic high point for the nation's space program that has been rapidly closing the capability gap created by decades of American and Russian space endeavors.

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

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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