China Sprouts First-Ever Plants on the Moon's Surface

18 Janvier, 2019, 09:28 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • China Sprouts First-Ever Plants on the Moon's Surface

China became the first country to land a probe on the far side of the moon on January 3 when a rover named Yutu 2, or Jade Rabbit 2, touched down in the moon's largest and oldest impact crater, the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Liu said the seeds were chosen for their hardiness, a necessary requirement in the moon's harsh conditions. Temperature and humidity levels are maintained through on-board systems, which is integral due to the Moon's wildly-shifting surface temperatures that can range from 212 degrees Fahrenheit in the sun to -280 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. As the experiment is officially ended now, it is pretty clear that the sprouted cotton plant is dead and it failed to grow as the first known extraterrestrial plant.

The probe has started its scientific exploration, focusing on studying the terrains and landforms, lunar environment, and substances composition, said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar program.

While China has insisted its ambitions are purely peaceful, the U.S. Defense Department has accused it of pursuing activities aiming to prevent other nations from using space-based assets during a crisis.

Each member of the experiment was chosen with a bioprocess goal in mind: Potato seeds represented a primary food supply for future space travelers (see also: The Martian), rapeseed could be used to produce oil, cotton seeds for clothing/supply fabric, the fruit fly would act as the consumer, and the yeast could regulate the oxygen and carbon dioxide being exchanged between the fly and the plants.

The overarching implications of this successful experiment are huge.

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It would mean that astronauts could potentially harvest their own food in space, reducing the need to come back down to Earth to re-supply, the BBC reported.

The cost of landing Chang'e-4 on the far side of the moon cost roughly the same as building one kilometer of subway, Wu said at the briefing. A first-of-its-kind mini biosphere experiment, which the lunar lander carried, contained seeds of cotton, rape, potato and Arabidopsis. The space agency is developing preliminary plans for a crewed lunar landing mission in the 2030s, with the possibility of building a moon base with worldwide cooperation afterward.

The "dark" side of the Moon may soon have a variety of vegetation growing there as China has begun its 100-day experiment to grow plants on the lunar surface.

According to a Xinhua report on Tuesday, researchers believe that the mini biosphere is an important first step in learning how to feed astronauts on future long-term mission missions to the moon, Mars and beyond.

The world's second-biggest economy is doubling down on its space program as the race with the USA to explore Mars and beyond heats up at a time both the powers are vying for economic, technological and military dominance.

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