Published: Thu, January 17, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

China accomplishes historic first as seeds sprout inside lunar lander mini-habitat

China accomplishes historic first as seeds sprout inside lunar lander mini-habitat

Undated image sent by China's Chang'e-4 probe shows one of the cotton seeds carried to the moon by the probe has sprouted on the moon. "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 Hanlong, the scientist leading the experiment, told the South China Morning Post.

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. Only on reaching the moon the command to water the seed was given.

Last night, they announced their first breakthrough publishing a picture of cotton seed, bought up on Chang'e 4 actually growing. In the coming months, Chang'e 4 will continue to carry out scientific observations across the less understood side of the moon.

The space agency plans to launch a Chang'e-5 mission at the end of 2019 with the goal of collecting samples from the near side of the moon, Wu said.

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.

Xie Gengxin, the scientist who led the design of the experiment, said on Tuesday that it was "the first time humans have done biological growth experiments on the lunar surface", The Guardian reported.

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After landing the first spacecraft on the dark side of the moon, China made another history by sprouting cotton seeds on the lunar surface. 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. It could mean humans elsewhere in the solar system would be able to grow food to consume in space, which can reduce the need and costs of getting supplies from Earth.

The experimental setup is encapsulated within a 19.8cm tall container designed by 28 Chinese universities.

China's successful lunar germination suggests "there might not be insurmountable problems for astronauts in future trying to grow their own crops on the moon in a controlled environment", Fred Watson, an astronomer-at-large with Australian Astronomical Observatory, told the BBC.

In fact, the success of China's experiment has prompted space and global affairs analysts muse that the nation's foray into lunar exploration could catalyze a new space race of sorts!

NASA says, 'Viewers in North and South America, as well as those in western parts of Europe and Africa, will be able to watch one of the sky's most dazzling shows on January 20, 2019, when the Sun, Earth and Moon align at 9:12 p.m. PST (12:12 a.m. EST), creating a total lunar eclipse'.

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