Chinese cotton seeds sprout on the moon

Cotton seeds carried by Chinese probe sprout on the far side of moon
Potatoes could be next

Alex Linder

Cotton seeds carried by Chinese probe sprout on the far side of moon Potatoes could be next by Alex Linder

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

Seeds carried to the moon by China's Chang'e-4 mission have sprouted, says China National Space Administration.

Placed on the Chang'e-4's lander, the mini biosphere, which was developed by scientists at China's Chongqing University, is a sealed, heat-controlled soil, water and air-filled aluminum alloy canister that also contains potato, rapeseed and thale cress seeds, as well as yeast and fruit fly eggs. For example, astronauts on the ISS are now working with an orbital agriculture experiment called Veggie which has recently faced issues with plant mold.

The seeds, flies and yeast were selected for their ability to withstand low gravity, strong radiation and wide temperature swings on the moon.

"This is the first time humans have done biological growth experiments on the lunar surface", Gengxin told The Guardian.

That makes it the first truly otherworldly plant in history.

The probe conducted the first-ever soft landing on the dark side of the Moon on January 3 following a 20-day journey from Earth.

"We have given consideration to future survival in space", Liu told the Hong Kong-based news outlet.

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.

China's ambitions for space and lunar exploration aren't limited to the current mission. Cotton could be used for clothing, rapeseed for oil, and the potatoes a source of food.

Chang'e 5 will lay the groundwork for further probes to be sent to the moon's south pole and possibly to return samples from the far side of the moon, Wu said.

According to Wu, the Chang'e 6 mission will be created to bring samples back from the south pole of the moon and this will be followed by probes that will conduct comprehensive surveys of the area.

While it's certainly been determined that human interaction will be a big hurdle for long-term space faring missions, the engineering side of sustainable food production off-Earth is still facing challenges of its own and will continue to need development efforts.

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