China Sprouts First-Ever Plants on the Moon's Surface


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".

Xie Gengxin, dean of Institute of Advanced Technology at Chongqing University, and the chief designer of the experiment, praised the achievement on the university's blog.

The Moon landing, heralded as a step forward for space exploration, hopes to investigate the potential for mankind to survive away from Earth.

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.

According to the university's blog, the experiment will show how life develops in low gravity and strong radiation environments. Images sent by the probe showed that a cotton sprout had started to grow, though no other plants were found growing. In 2015, Expedition 44 astronauts grew - and then consumed - romaine lettuce on the International Space Station.

They began growing when the control centre back on Earth sent a command to the probe telling it to water the seeds.

On Tuesday, Chinese media reported that one of the cotton seeds aboard the Chang'e 4 lunar lander sprouted, marking the first time that any biological matter has ever grown on the moon. The "lunar mini biosphere" experiment was selected from more than 250 submissions.

"Experts are still discussing and verifying the feasibility of subsequent projects, but it's confirmed that there will be another three missions after Chang'e 5", said Wu Yanhua, deputy head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), at a press conference.

While it's certainly been determined that human interaction will be a big hurdle for long-term space faring missions, the engineering side of sustainable food production off-Earth is still facing challenges of its own and will continue to need development efforts.

This is not the first time a total lunar eclipse has coincided with a major Boston sporting event.

Seeds brought to the Moon aboard the Chang'e 4 lander include cotton, rapeseed, potato and arabidopsis (also known as rockcress). The plants will make oxygen and food which is used to sustain the flies, while the... Chang'e 4 is located in the Von Karman crater in the moon's southern hemisphere.

Now it could be setting its sights on the red planet with a potential probe mission to Mars slated for 2020.