China's moon lander sprouted a plant, but now it's dead

Pablo Tucker
November 30, 2019

China will seek to establish an worldwide lunar base one day, possibly using 3D printing technology to build facilities, the Chinese space agency said this week, a almost a fortnight after landing a rover on the moon's far side.

After making the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon, China's Chang'e-4 mission pioneered the first mini biosphere experiment on the moon.

Chang'e 5 is a Moon-rock sample return mission whose goal is to land in the Mons Rumker region of Oceanus Procellarum, and return a 2 kilogram sample of lunar regolith, possibly from as deep as 2 metres.

On China's space cooperation with Russia, Li Guoping, secretary-general of the CNSA, said that Russia is one of the key partners in China's space programs.

In a post from the South China Morning Post, we learn that the cotton seeds were transported in an airtight container comprised of soil, air, water, and more.

Researchers at Chongqing University are conducting an experiment to observe how plants can grow in low-gravity environments and in the natural lighting conditions of the moon.

Another payload on the lander, the Lunar Lander Neutrons and Dosimetry (LND) instrument developed in Germany, will also provide data relevant to future human exploration of the Moon.

Along with a number of sophisticated scientific instruments, the mission's lunar lander carried a sealed container, the lunar mini biosphere experiment. 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.

The China National Space Administration's lunar lander, seen on January 11. The greatest challenge according to Chinese scientists is the constant weather changes on the moon.

The seeds and fruit fly eggs were made dormant using unspecified "biological technology", during the 20-day journey to the Moon, Xinhua reported. Cotton could be used for clothing, rapeseed for oil, and the potatoes a source of food.

Fred Watson, Australian Astronomical Observatory's astronomer-at-large, told the BBC the development was "good news".

"It suggests that there might not be insurmountable problems for astronauts in future trying to grow their own crops on the moon in a controlled environment". China shared video of the Chang'e 4 landing on the moon this week. Now, photos taken by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) show small leafy stalks sprouting from the moon's surface. That said, we shouldn't be discouraged from such project.

Finally, the Chang'e-8 mission will test technologies and do "some preliminary exploration for countries to jointly build a lunar research base in the future", Wu said.

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