In an out-of-this-world first, green-thumbed Chinese scientists have managed to sprout a plant on the far side of the moon, officials said Tuesday.
“This is the first time humans have done biological growth experiments on the lunar surface,” said Xie Gengxin, who led the design of the experiment.
The sprout emerged from a lattice-like structure inside a canister since the country’s Chang’e-4 lander set down on Jan. 3, according to images released by the Advanced Technology Research Institute at Chongqing University.
Scientists who designed the “mini lunar biosphere” experiment sent a 7-inch container holding air, water and soil. Inside are cotton, potato and arabidopsis seeds — a plant of the mustard family — as well as fruit fly eggs and yeast.
A cotton sprout has grown well, but so far none of the other plants has taken, the scientists said.
“We have given consideration to future survival in space. Learning about these plants’ growth in a low-gravity environment would allow us to lay the foundation for our future establishment of space base,” said Professor Liu Hanlong, head of the experiment.
He said potatoes could be the main food source for space explorers, while cotton could be used for clothing and rapeseed could be a source of oil, according to the South China Morning Post.
Plants have been grown on the International Space Station before but never on the moon.
The ability to grow plants on Earth’s satellite will be integral for long-term space missions, like a trip to Mars, which would take about two-and-a-half years.
It would mean that astronauts could potentially harvest their own food in space.
With Post wires