Giant leaf for mankind? China germinates first seed on moon

Gwen Vasquez
January 15, 2019

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).

The China National Space Administration released a photo Tuesday showing that cotton seeds brought to the far side of the moon by the country's Chang'e 4 lander had germinated, the South China Morning Post reports. The cotton seeds were the first to sprout according to Professor Liu Hanlong, the head of the experiment. They also added yeast, fruit fly eggs and the seeds of cotton, rapeseed, potato and rock cress-a flowering plant in the mustard family.

The agency said four more lunar missions are planned, confirming the launch of Chang'e 5 by the end of the year, which will be the first probe to return samples of the moon to Earth since the 1970s. The plants produced oxygen and food that are used to sustain the fruit flies.

The officials discussed future lunar exploration plans less than two weeks after the Chang'e-4 lander's history-making touchdown, and only a few days after China's space agency released video of the lander's descent and lunar surface activities.

Scientists filled a sealed canister-which is made from special aluminum alloys and kept heated to a temperature of around 25 degrees Celsius-with water, soil and air.

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"In addition, the yeast can decompose the waste of plants and drosophila melanogaster and grow, and can also serve as food of drosophila melanogaster".

The plans underscore China's ambitions in space at a time when the USA is curtailing NASA's budget and increasingly handing over space exploration to commercial adventurers, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

The breakthrough is seen as key to future space missions, as the ability to grow plants could be key to longer-term missions such as journeys to Mars.

Incidentally, the Chang'e 4 lander first touched down on the far side of the Moon earlier this month, an impressive achievement in and of itself.

The state-run China Daily said that was the first such form of cooperation since the 2011 USA law was enacted. "So, this is a significant step to building such systems". The series of missions will also lay the groundwork for the construction of a lunar research base, possibly using 3D printing technology to build facilities.

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