Science

China grows the first seed on the Moon

China grows the first seed on the Moon”

For the first time anybody is aware of, seeds have sprouted on a celestial body beyond Earth.

When its Chang'e 4 spacecraft touched down on the lunar surface it was carrying a £1m airtight container designed for growing crops in shocking conditions.

Charles Cockell, a professor of astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, told Newsweek that the latest achievement is "very significant" because it shows a proof of concept for growing plants on the moon.

"Whether the probe will land on the near side or the far side of the moon, we will make the decision according to the performance of Chang'e 5", he said.

Such a base would likely rely on seeds being grown on the moon by astronauts, reducing the need for costly resupplies.

Inside are cotton, arabidopsis - a small, flowering plant of the mustard family - and potato seeds, as well as fruit-fly eggs and yeast.

"In the past, we were always rushing to catch up to the advanced global standards" in space, said Wu Weiren, the chief designer of China's lunar exploration project.

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In an attempt to better understand how plants and animals could grow and live on the lunar surface, Chongqing University equipped the Chang'e 4 lander with a "mini-biosphere" experiment, which is created to be a self-sustaining ecosystem, according to Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua.

He said cotton could eventually be used for clothing while the potatoes could be a food source for astronauts and the rapeseed for oil.

Fred Watson, Australian Astronomical Observatory's astronomer-at-large, told the BBC the development was "good news".

"I think there's certainly a great deal of interest in using the Moon as staging post, particularly for flights to Mars, because it's relatively near the Earth", Mr Watson said. China has big ambitions of becoming a comparable top-tier space power with plans to send a crewed mission to the moon (the last one came in 1972) and to establish a research base there someday.

Chang'e-4 made its historic landing on January 3 after three weeks in lunar orbit, and the mission lander and rover have begun testing science payloads, taking images and roving around the landing area.

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. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of stlucianewsonline.com, its sponsors or advertisers.



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