China moon: First crops sprout - potatoes in 100 days


China has released awesome footage of the descent of the Chang'e-4 spacecraft which shows the historic moment of the first landing on the far side of the Moon. Inside you'll find soil, yeast, fruit fly and silkworm eggs, as well as cotton, potato, tomato, and (flowering) thale cress seeds.

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 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. The ability to grow plants in space is seen as crucial for long-term space missions and establishing human outposts elsewhere in the solar system, such as Mars.

The Chang'e 4 lander is the first to visit the far side of our lunar neighbor, sometimes called "the dark side of the moon". Meanwhile, the yeast helps to regulate the gases in the canister and acts as a decomposing agent, processing waste from the flies and any dead plants. "Learning about these plants' growth in a low-gravity environment would allow us to lay the foundation for our future establishment of space base", Liu said.

The seeds and eggs were kept dormant as the probe traveled through space.

"China, the U.S., Russian Federation and countries from Europe are all studying whether to set up a research base or station on the moon, like if we can build houses with lunar soil via 3-D printing technology", China's CGTN network quoted Wu as saying. He said that the cotton and rapeseed were chosen because they could provide the astronauts with the raw material needed to produce clothing and oil.

Permanently lit regions around the south pole are considered prime locations for a lunar base, particularly because permanently shadowed craters nearby are judged likely to hold the reserves of frozen water needed for crewed operations.

Chang'e-4 made its historic landing on January 3 after three weeks in lunar orbit, and the mission lander and rover have begun testing science payloads, taking images and roving around the landing area.