Published: Fri, January 18, 2019
Science | By Michele Flores

China Just Sprouted The First-Ever Plant on The Moon

China Just Sprouted The First-Ever Plant on The Moon

Chang'e 4 touched down on the far side of the moon on 3 January with equipment, and a rover meant to explore the moon's surface and to conduct the biological growth experiments. Among its cargo is a miniature lunar biosphere developed by scientists at Chongqing University.

The system started watering the seeds after the prober landed on moon and less than a week later, green shoot already started appearing.

Together, these components are meant to kickstart a simple ecosystem, the objective of which is to test the viability of sustaining a future colony on the Moon.

The latest photos show that the cotton shoots are growing well. The rover will be reactivated after 14 days when the moon's far side enters daytime.

Both robots are now experiencing their first long, cold night on the moon, when daytime and nighttime each last about two Earth weeks. In 2015, Expedition 44 astronauts grew - and then consumed - romaine lettuce on the International Space Station. Yeast, fruit flies, and rock cress were also sent aboard Chang'e-4 as part of an experiment to investigate growth in low-gravity environments.

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

The cost of landing Chang'e-4 on the far side of the moon cost roughly the same as building one kilometer of subway, Wu said at the briefing.

The plans underscore China's ambitions in space at a time when the USA is curtailing NASA's budget and increasingly handing over space exploration to commercial adventurers, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

The cotton seeds were the first to sprout but the rapeseed and potato seeds have now also sprouted, the mission team spokesperson told a press conference Tuesday.

"With this circle, a mini biosphere comprising producers, consumers and decomposers is formed", they said. Launch payloads could be reduced if crews could grow food during the trip and the photosynthesis process could reduce carbon dioxide, help manage moisture levels within the spacecraft, and of course, produce breathable air. In turn, the plants would provide oxygen for the human colonists. While on Earth, we've become accustomed to the benefits provided by our planet's natural biosphere - things like humidity, sunlight levels, water levels, etc. work in ways that are hard to reproduce in a completely controlled environment like a spacecraft.

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