Cottoning on: Chinese seed sprouts on moon

Cotton seeds carried to the moon by a Chinese probe have sprouted, marking what could be the first plant to ever grow there, according to Chinese government images.

Planted among the cotton seeds are other biological experiments, including rapeseed and potato seeds.

The complete list of six organisms chosen to go to the moon includes cotton, rapeseed, potato, rock cress, yeast, and fruit flies. With the ability to grow edible plants, astronauts could grow and harvest their own food, enabling long-term habitation.

The mini biosphere experiment was developed by a team of scientists from Chongqing University in southwest China in collaboration with researchers from 26 domestic scientific research institutions and universities, according to Liu Hanlong, vice chancellor of the Chongqing University. The animal and plant species selected were required to be able to withstand large swings in temperatures and radiation.

Gengxin added that these plants could be used to grow food and make cooking oil.

The Chang'e-4 lunar probe landed on January 3 and transmitted the first-ever "close range" image of the far side of the moon.

Once Chang'e-4 touched down, the ground control center instructed the probe to water the seeds, Xinhua reported.

The landing is a milestone for China's fledgling space program, marking the first time that China has completed a significant space mission that was not already performed previously by the USA or Russian Federation.

The pioneering landing highlights China's ambitions to rival the US, Russia and Europe in space through manned flights and the planned construction of a permanent space station.

The China National Space Administration is working to send a probe to the Red Planet, said Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the agency. The BBC notes that there are already "nearly 100 bags of human waste on the Moon left behind by the Apollo astronauts".

With the success of the cotton underway, China plans to continue its plans for further space exploration The goal of the next moon probe will be to bring samples of the moon back to Earth.

"Learning about these plants' growth in a low-gravity environment would allow us to lay the foundation for our future establishment of [a] space base".

  • Joey Payne