Published: Sat, January 19, 2019
Science | By Celia Watts

First life to sprout on the Moon is already dead

First life to sprout on the Moon is already dead

The cotton seed grew in a lattice-like structure inside a canister after the lander touched down on the moon on January 3, say researchers at Chongqing University.

China plans to launch the Chang'e-5 probe to the moon later this year, with three more in the offing, said Wu Yanhua, vice administrator of the China National Space Administration, at a briefing in Beijing on Monday.

Professor Liu Hanlong, who is in charge of the experiment, told the South China Morning Post that he hoped in the future potatoes could help provide a source of food for astronauts.

Pic A tiny cotton seed brought to the Moon's surface by a Chinese spacecraft has apparently just sprouted, quite possibly making it the first Earth-based plant to start growing on our rocky satellite.

Along with cotton, five other species-seeds of rapeseed, potato and Arabidopsis, fruit fly eggs and yeast-were also aboard, but neither images nor clear reports on these have been released.

It would mean that astronauts could potentially harvest their own food in space, reducing the need to come back down to Earth to resupply. Chang'e 4 is located in the Von Karman crater in the moon's southern hemisphere. "Learning about these plants' growth in a low gravity environment would allow us to lay foundation for our future establishment of (a) space base". Since the orbiting cycle of the Moon and the rotation cycle is the same, therefore only one side of the moon is visible from the earth, and most of its side can not be seen.

Chang'e-5 will be followed by three further missions that will explore the barren surface of the Moon and test equipment for an worldwide lunar research base.

China's miniature biosphere experiment has yielded sprouting cotton seeds, and they are the first plants to germinate on the Moon - an important first step in creating a viable, self-sustaining lunar colony. All countries are welcome to participate in China's follow-up lunar exploration and deep space exploration projects, he said. An experiment to grow plants on the moon is also being carried out.

As for why they chose these plants specifically for the lunar experiment, Liu explained that this is part of their long-term goal of eventually building a base on the Moon.

The seeds began growing once they received water from the probe via a command from a ground control centre.

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