China Announces Cotton Seeds Placed on Moon Have Sprouted

China Announces Cotton Seeds Placed on Moon Have Sprouted

Riding on its success of landing a rover on the far side of the Moon earlier in January, China's space agency is planning to launch another mission to the Moon by the end of 2019 and a mission to Mars as early as 2020, the media reported.

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.

China plans to launch the Chang'e-5 probe to the moon later this year, with three more in the offing, said Wu Yanhua, vice administrator of the China National Space Administration, at a briefing in Beijing on Monday.

The China National Space Administration stated that the cotton seeds brought to the Moon by the Chang'e 4 probe have sprouted.

"My firm belief is that we should integrate China into the International Space Station program".

One of the cotton seeds carried to the moon by China's Chang'e-4 probe is the first ever to sprout on the moon, according to scientists of a mini biosphere experiment on Tuesday.

Seeds Have Sprouted On The Moon For The First Time
The lunar probe and its rover, Yutu-2, transmitted the first-ever "close range" image of the far side of the moon last week. With the ability to grow edible plants, astronauts could grow and harvest their own food, enabling long-term habitation.

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.

Harvesting food in space, ideally using locally extracted water, would mean astronauts could survive for far longer without returned to Earth for supplies.

The capsule and its seeds are stored on the Chang'e 4 lander, which is perched inside Von Kármán Crater on the far side of the moon. The ability of plants to grow in space is seen as a crucial element for long-term space missions and for establishing human outposts in the solar system like Mars. A little bit of sunlight is refracted by the Earth's atmosphere and reaches the Moon, bending around the edges of the Earth. Tests on Earth show that viable, self-sustaining biospheres are exceptionally hard to build and maintain.

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

Another goal of the mission was to test whether plants could grow in a low-gravity environment, a test which appears to have already yielded results.

A series of moves by China is likely to fuel competition with the United States in lunar exploration.

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