China's Lunar Lander Chang'e 4 Grows First Plant on Moon (See Pictures)

Cristina Cross
January 18, 2019

This week, China announced yet another historic first that has long-lasting implications for manned space exploration in the future: China is growing plants on the Moon.

The seeds were sent as part of China's Change-4 mission, a probe which landed on the far side of the moon on January 3.

Self-sustaining habitable environments for off-planet travel have been part of scientific research for decades, including a famous large-scale experiment conducted nearly 30 years ago called Biosphere 2 (Earth is Biosphere 1). Dubbed a moon surface micro-ecological circle, the 18-centimeter high aluminum alloy cylinder contains silkworm eggs and seeds for potatoes and rockcress (Arabidopsis thaliana, a flowering plant related to mustard and cabbage).

Xie Gengxin, dean of Institute of Advanced Technology at Chongqing University and the chief designer of the experiment, said it was a world first. A People's Daily tweet said the test photo, "marks the completion of humankind's first biological experiment on the moon".

"(It) is of great significance", he concluded.

The Chang'e 4 lander and Yutu 2 rover have now entered lunar night, and have gone into a sort of sleep mode as a result.

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The items inside the canister act as 'producers, consumers, and decomposers in the micro-ecosystem, head of the experiment, Professor Liu Hanlong, told the South China Morning Post.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) confirmed that another four lunar missions would follow Chang'e-4, with a Mars mission planned for 2020.

"China, the United States, Russia and Europe are all discussing whether to build a research base or a research station on the moon", Wu said. They will need the ability to grow their own food, and this Moon experiment suggests they'll be able to with the right equipment.

China exchanged data with NASA on its recent mission to land a Chinese spacecraft on the far side of the moon, the Chinese space agency said Monday, in what was reportedly the first such collaboration since an American law banned joint space projects with China that do not have prior congressional approval. Some don't know that the lander had a payload of six organisms on board to test out on the lunar far side. We could probably make some nice sweaters from moon-grown cotton.

While China has insisted its ambitions are purely peaceful, the U.S. Defense Department has accused it of pursuing activities aiming to prevent other nations from using space-based assets during a crisis.

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