Published: Wed, January 16, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Moon sees first cotton-seed sprout — China Focus

Moon sees first cotton-seed sprout — China Focus

The scientists behind the experiment rendered the seeds dormant for two months - from the testing phase to when vehicle landed on the moon.

Xie Gengxin, dean of Institute of Advanced Technology at Chongqing University and the chief designer of the experiment, said it was a world first.

Chang'e-7 will study the land surface, composition, terrain and space environment.

The Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) released images on Tuesday showing how cotton seeds taken to the lunar surface by the lander have sprouted. Cotton seeds have reportedly just sprouted in an experiment aboard China's Chang'e 4 moon lander.

Researchers expect the experiment may help acquire knowledge for building a lunar base and long-term residence on the moon. Of these, only the cotton seeds have germinated, for reasons that have yet to be determined.

Chang'e 5 will lay the groundwork for further probes to be sent to the moon's south pole and possibly to return samples from the far side of the moon, Wu said.

China's bold moon-exploration plans don't stop with the pioneering Chang'e 4 mission, which made the first-ever soft landing on the lunar far side on January 2. The crops will try to form a mini biosphere - an artificial, self-sustaining environment.

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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations shared its glee on Twitter, saying, "China's moon mission success means that astronauts could potentially harvest their own food in space!"

The public, especially young people, have been encouraged to participate in the Chang'e-4 mission. This mission has launched China into space race.

"This is the first time humans have conducted biological growth experiments on the lunar surface", he said.

The pioneering landing highlights China's ambitions to rival the US, Russia and Europe in space through manned flights and the planned construction of a permanent space station. Fruit flies, they added, "as consumers, and yeast, as decomposers, would generate carbon dioxide by consuming oxygen for photosynthesis of plants".

But it's also a supermoon, where the moon is at its closest point to Earth.

Wu also revealed that China will send a probe to Mars around 2020.

Potatoes could be a main source food for space explorers, cotton could be used for clothing, and rapeseed could be a source of oil, Liu said.

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