China's Chang'e-4 sprouts cotton plant on Moon, and now its dead

China's Chang'e-4 sprouts cotton plant on Moon, and now its dead”

In a first for humankind, plants are growing on the surface of the moon, the South China Morning Post reports.

China landed its Chang'e 4 spacecraft on the Moon's far side on January 3, becoming the first nation to do so.

The cotton along with potato seed, fruit-fly eggs, arabidopsis - a small, flowering plant of the mustard family - and yeast landed on the moon January 3 aboard the Chang'e 4 lander. Once on the Moon's far side, ground control commanded the lander to water the seeds.

With an annual space budget of $8bn, second only to the US, China is also looking to send a probe to the red planet by the end of this decade and build its own space station by 2022.

The seeds include cotton, rapeseed, and potatoes.

The Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) released images on Tuesday showing how cotton seeds taken to the lunar surface by the lander have sprouted.

The lunar mini biosphere experiment on the lander is created to test photosynthesis and respiration - processes in living organisms that result in the production of energy.

The lunar probe and its rover, Yutu-2, transmitted the first-ever "close range" image of the far side of the moon last week.

The far side of the Moon, which humans know much less about than the side that faces the Earth, is often mistakenly called the "dark" side, though it is not actually deprived of light.

Video taken from the Chang'e-4 probe shows its view as it hovered over Earth's rocky neighbor before quickly dropping toward its surface.

"And with time moving on, it'll be the first plant with green leaves on the moon", Xie Gengxin, dean of Institute of Advanced Technology at Chongqing University, and the chief designer of the experiment, said in a university blog.

Xie said potatoes could be a major source of food for future space travelers. It is hoped the organisms could eventually form the basis of a simple mini biosphere.

As for the fruit flies, they'd be the consumers within this ecosystem, and the yeast would act as the decomposers, according to Chongqing University.

The country's first mission to Mars is scheduled for around 2020, Wu Yanhua, deputy head of China National Space Administration, said at a news conference in Beijing Monday.

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