Published: Sat, January 19, 2019
Research | By Wilma Wheeler

China successfully grows first plant on the moon

China successfully grows first plant on the moon

On 3 January, Chang'e 4's lunar probe successfully landed on the Von Kármán crater - located on the far side of the moon.

Xie Gengxin, professor at Chongqing University and chief designer of the experiment, told Xinhua that potatoes "could be a major source of food for future space travellers".

Cotton seeds have reportedly just sprouted in an experiment aboard China's Chang'e 4 moon lander.

A range of vegetables and plants have previously been grown on the International Space Station, but this is the first time plants have been grown on the moon.

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

The deputy director of China's space agency, Wu Yanhua, said that the Chang'e-4 mission marked a turning point for Chinese space exploration.

It is hoped the experiment will pave the way for long-term space exploration and provide astronauts with the means to grown their own crops, à la Damon. Chang'e is a name of the Chinese moon goddess.

Testing new technologies like 3D printing or the use of moon soil in construction for future missions could lay the groundwork for building on the moon's surface, he said. The telemetry information and images taken by the probe showed that the spacecraft effectively avoided obstacles during its descent, the report said.

He said the Chang'e-4 probe has achieved the expected landing precision.

The ability to grow plant life on the Moon or in deep space could have a number of benefits for manned space voyages in the future.

It is the first time a soft landing has been performed on the Moon's far side - also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown - due to challenges relaying signals.

"Overnight from Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, into Monday, Jan. 21, millions of people in North and South America will have a prime view of a total lunar eclipse", said.

Weighing below three kilograms, the test payload includes six organisms including seeds of cotton, potatoes, Arabidopsis and rapeseeds, as well as fruit fly pupa and yeast.

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.

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