China confirms seeds sprouting on far side of moon

Eloise Marshall
November 30, 2019

China's miniature biosphere experiment has yielded sprouting cotton seeds, and they are the first plants to germinate on the Moon - an important first step in creating a viable, self-sustaining lunar colony.

A camera on China's Yutu 2 lunar rover took this photo of the Chang'e 4 lander on the far side of the moon.

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. "Learning about these plants' growth in a low gravity environment would allow us to lay foundation for our future establishment of (a) space base". Yet the fact that earthly cotton plants grow on the moon as we speak is far more exciting.

The United States government and NASA had hitherto prohibited from working with China's space agency and state-owned companies.

Xinhua also posted a video showing a simulated seedling growth test on Earth, leading to some questions about the earlier images and whether they came from the moon experiment or its Earth counterpart.

The experiment's chief designer, Xie Gengxin of Chongqing University, told Xinhua that life inside the canister would not survive the lander's first lunar night, which started on Sunday. So far, China has carried out cooperation in manned space mission with Russia, Germany, France and the European Space Agency and hopes to have more global cooperation in equipment research, space application and taikonauts training.

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Plants have been grown on the International Space Station before but never on the Moon.

Scientists in China claimed NASA sought their help to launch a mission on the moon.

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

To the Australian Astronomical Association astronomer-at-large, Fred Watson, the development was "good news", reports the BBC.

Wu Yanhua, deputy head of the CNSA, said China is willing to work with the worldwide community to push forward the frontiers of space exploration on the basis of equality, mutual benefit, peaceful use and inclusive development. "Experts are still discussing and verifying the feasibility of subsequent projects, but it's confirmed that there will be another three missions after Chang'e-5", said Wu Yanhua, deputy head of the CNSA, at a press conference of the State Council Information Office. To get around the challenge of communications, China put a satellite in lunar orbit to deliver signals to and from the lander.

Li noted that all foreign counterparts are welcome to participate in its future lunar and deep space missions, especially the lunar probe which plans to land on the south pole of the moon. Wu added, "We also have plans to send a probe to Mars in 2020".

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