Scientists say that the first plants that recently sprouted on the moon via a special container in the Chang'e probe have likely died. The experiment was cut short after scientists had to shut down the power supply that kept them alive.
It was on Jan. 3 that the Chang’e Lunar probe landed on the far side of the moon, and just last Tuesday, the mission behind the team announced the success of the first biology mission on the moon, showing photos of a sprouting cotton plant inside the lunar lander’s biosphere. The cotton, rapeseed, and potatoes that had sprouted in the biosphere were the first to be planted on the moon by humans.
However, the experiment is over just nine days after it began. The team announced that the plants, as well as fruit fly eggs, are now likely already dead after they had to remotely shut down the power that controls the temperature. Without it, the temperatures become too extreme to support life.
According to the designer of the experiment, Professor Xie Gengxin of Chongqing University, the temperatures were still at 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) at 10:30 a.m. on the moon even with two temperature controlling plates, leaving them at a temperature that is not optimal for growth.
Furthermore, the weight limit of the Chang’e launch prevented scientists from bringing additional batteries to the lander, so the only battery available in the spacecraft could not support or keep the temperature under control. Without temperature control, plants and animals could not survive.
That said, despite pulling the plug on the experiment early on, the scientists still consider it a success.
The self-contained biosphere was created to plant seeds and raise fruit flies in the high-radiation, low-gravity environment of the moon, in hopes of assessing how future colonists of the moon would cultivate their food.
For the experiment, the test load inside the Chang’e probe included plants for possible consumption, fruit flies as the consumers, and the yeast as the “decomposers.” It was initially intended to last for 100 days.