Moon sprouts: one small step for cotton, one giant step for China

16 January, 2019, 22:40 | Author: Sidney Guerrero
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China successfully achieved a global first with its trip to the far side of the moon when the Chang'e-4 lunar probe landed in the Von Kármán crater on January 3. - China will seek to establish an worldwide lunar base one day, possibly using 3D printing technology to build facilities, the Chinese space agency said on January 14, weeks after landing the rover on the moon's far side. China's space agency says it worked with NASA to collect data from the far side of the moon.

Cotton, rapeseed, and potato seedlings have all sprouted inside a canister aboard China's Chang'e-4 lunar lander, now parked on the far side of the moon.

The mission, titled Chang'e 4, is meant to accomplish a range of tasks, including conducting the first lunar low-frequency radio astronomy experiment and exploring whether there is water at the moon's poles.

They began growing when the control centre back on Earth sent a command to the probe telling it to water the seeds.

Along with a number of sophisticated scientific instruments, the mission's lunar lander carried a sealed container, the lunar mini biosphere experiment. Dubbed a moon surface micro-ecological circle, the 18-centimeter high aluminum alloy cylinder contains silkworm eggs and seeds for potatoes and rockcress (Arabidopsis thaliana, a flowering plant related to mustard and cabbage). The temperature can range from -173C to 100C.

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Xie Gengxin, the scientist who led the experiment's design, said on Tuesday that it was "the first time humans have done biological growth experiments on the lunar surface", The Guardian reported. The plants will make oxygen and food which is used to sustain the flies, while the...

To the Australian Astronomical Association astronomer-at-large, Fred Watson, the development was "good news", reports the BBC.

After Chang'e-5 returns lunar rocks from the surface the next mission, China will launch Chang'e-6 to bring samples back from the south pole of the moon.

The far side of the Moon, which humans know much less about than the side that faces the Earth, is often mistakenly called the "dark" side, though it is not actually deprived of light.

The China National Space Administration held a press conference on Monday in Beijing where the agency outlined its future plans. "Our country's first Mars exploration mission will take place before and after 2020".

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