Published: Wed, January 16, 2019
Science | By Celia Watts

Moon sees first cotton-seed sprout — China Focus

Moon sees first cotton-seed sprout — China Focus

Seeds taken to the moon on China's Chang'e-4 mission have begun to sprout, according to the China National Space Administration.

Seeds have sprouted on the Moon for the very first time!

Although astronauts have cultivated plants on the International Space Station, and rice and Arabidopsis were grown on China's Tiangong-2 space lab, those experiments were conducted in low-Earth orbit, at an altitude of about 400 km.

Cotton plants have been seen budding and growing, as shown by this close-up of the plants sprouting under a protective cover on the Chang'e 4 lunar lander. - China will seek to establish an worldwide lunar base one day, possibly using 3D printing technology to build facilities, the Chinese space agency said on January 14, weeks after landing the rover on the moon's far side. According to the BBC, the sprouts are part of an ongoing experiment to test photosynthesis and respiration. This mission has launched China into space race.

The space agency is already looking ahead to its next lunar mission, Chang'e 5, which is created to collect lunar samples and bring them back to Earth. Liu Hanglong, a professor at the school of civil engineering at Chongqing University, who is leading the bio-experiment, told the South China Morning Post, that the rapeseed could produce oil for astronauts, potatoes could feed them, and cotton could clothe them. The plants release oxygen and provide food for the fruit flies, while the yeast converts the oxygen into carbon dioxide for the plants, among other processes. We could probably make some nice sweaters from moon-grown cotton. The organisms will gradually decompose in the totally enclosed canister, and will not affect the lunar environment, said the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

China's ambitions for space and lunar exploration aren't limited to the current mission.

It is the first time a soft landing has been performed on the Moon's far side - also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown - due to challenges relaying signals.

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