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Seeds Have Sprouted On The Moon For The First Time
17 January 2019, 07:57 | Dale Webster
Cotton seeds carried by China's Chang'e-4 moon probe have become the first biological matter to grow on the moon.
China's Chang'e 4 craft lunar lander arrived January 3, 2019 on the far side of the Moon, and part of its cargo included an aluminum alloy canister equipped with materials necessary for not only plant growth, but a self-sustaining biological environment lead by Chongqing University. Yeast, arabidopsis - a small, flowering plant of the cabbage family - rape and potato seeds are also on board, along with fruit fly larvae, said Liu. "Learning about these plants' growth in a low-gravity environment would allow us to lay the foundation for our future establishment of a space base", Professor Xie Gengxin, the experiment's chief designer, told the press. Images sent back by the probe show a cotton sprout has grown well, but so far none of the other plants has taken, the university said. This represents the first time that humans have deliberately grown living material on the moon, and indeed, any other planetary body.
They began growing when the control centre back on Earth sent a command to the probe telling it to water the seeds. It has now achieved another first: a seed successfully germinating while on the Moon.
Because the far side faces away from Earth, it is also shielded from radio transmissions - making it the flawless place from where to study the universe.
The Chang'e 4 lander is the first to visit the far side of Earth's natural satellite, sometimes called "the dark side of the moon".
As for the fruit flies, they'd be the consumers within this ecosystem, and the yeast would act as the decomposers, according to Chongqing University.
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.
The system started watering the seeds after the prober landed on moon and less than a week later, green shoot already started appearing. Keeping the temps within an acceptable range is one of the most hard parts of the experiment, as the moon swings from a freezing -173 C to 100 C or above. Three successive missions will further explore the barren surface of the moon and test equipment for an worldwide lunar research base. With the ability to grow edible plants, astronauts could grow and harvest their own food, enabling long-term habitation.
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