Published: Tue, January 15, 2019
Sci-tech | By April Francis

China sprouts the first plants on the moon

China sprouts the first plants on the moon

Professor Xie Gengxin, the Chinese scientist in charge of the lunar plant experiment, said if successful, the project would signal that China was catching up in space exploration.

The cotton seeds were the first to sprout but the rapeseed and potato seeds have now also sprouted, the mission team spokesperson told a press conference Tuesday.

The seeds only began growing once ground control singled to the probe to begin hydrating them and the cotton seed became the first-ever lunar sprout (plants have been grown on board the ISS, of course).

Many have questioned whether the experiment is likely to contaminate the moon, however, experts believe this is unlikely also considering there are more than 100 bags of human waste on the Moon left behind by the Apollo astronauts.

Xinhua said the probe had taken about 170 pictures so far which have been sent back to Earth.

Earlier today China has released incredible footage of its historic touchdown on the icy far side of the moon.

Meanwhile, the silkworm eggs will also hopefully hatch into moths, reports the SCMP.

"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.

The species selection was according to strict requirements due to the limited size of the payload and the extreme conditions of the lunar surface.

The lunar mission by Chang'e 4 and its rover, Jade Rabbit 2, was a triumph for China's growing space program, which has been rapidly catching up with those of Russian Federation and the US President Xi Jinping has placed space exploration among the country's national development priorities and the far side mission offered a chance for China to do something not done before by any other country. "We will study their photosynthesis under strong sunlight and compare it with the experiment on the Earth".

The seeds, flies and yeast were selected for their ability to withstand low gravity, strong radiation and wide temperature swings on the moon. "So, this is a significant step to building such systems".

The experiment is being monitored 24 hours a day, with the data to be analysed and summarised in preparation for future experiments. Scientists are still researching whether to send Chinese astronauts, Wu said. China shared video of the Chang'e 4 landing on the moon this week.

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.

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