China has made history by becoming the first country to sprout seeds on the moon. The China National Space Administration announced on Tuesday that cotton seeds brought by the Chang'e 4 mission to the lunar surface have sprouted.
Cotton Plant Sprouts On The Moon
Researchers from the Advanced Technology Research Institute at Chongqing University backed up the announcement with pictures from the probe that show tiny plants growing in a small canister inside the Chang'e 4 lander.
The mission already earned China a place in space history as the first country to land a spacecraft on the dark side of the moon, when the rover named Yutu 2, or Jade Rabbit 2, touched down on the satellite's largest and oldest impact crater, the South Pole-Aitken Basin earlier this month.
Now, the mission made another history for China after the cotton seeds it carried have sprouted, the first plants to ever grow on the moon's surface. Chinese researchers also plan to grow seeds from potato, mouse-ear cress, and rapeseed.
"This (mission) has achieved the first biological experiment on the moon of human history, to sprout the first bud on the desolate moon. And with time moving on, it'll be the first plant with green leaves on the moon," said the experiment's chief designer Xie Gengxin, from Chongqing University.
Objective Of The Experiment
The Chang'e 4 mission's mini lunar biosphere experiment is designed to test photosynthesis and respiration, processes that result in the production of energy in living organisms. The experiment is contained within an 18 cm, 3 kg (7 lbs.) canister designed by 28 universities in China.
Growing Plants In Space
The ability to grow plants in space is crucial for long-term space missions and in establishing human colonies such as on planet Mars. It could mean humans elsewhere in the solar system would be able to grow food to consume in space, which can reduce the need and costs of getting supplies from Earth.
Astronauts onboard the International Space Station have previously grown and harvested plants aboard the orbiting laboratory.