Now that China has successfully made history by landing their Chang’e-4 probe on the dark — or far — side of the moon, there is great cause for excitement, and if all goes according to plan, there may even be flowers growing on the lunar surface in the future.
As Huffington Post reports, Chang’e-4 will now be conducting research on the Von Kármán crater, which is a basin on the moon which stretches to an astonishing 1,550 feet. With the use of a spectrometer, it will also be able to make observations through low-frequency radio, which is only possible on the far side of the moon, by virtue of the fact that it cannot receive any radio noise from Earth.
Perhaps one of the most ambitious and exciting projects that the Chinese Space Agency will be undertaking will be an attempt to grow various living things on the moon, which includes potatoes, rapeseed, yeast, cotton, and the flowering plant known as arabidopsis (rock cress), which is genetically related to mustard and cabbage. To make this work, of course, China will first need to create a sustainable and working miniature biosphere on the moon, which scientists believe is doable.
According to Live Science, a very small tin on the Chang’e-4 probe carried seeds of different plants to the far side of the moon, along with silkworm eggs. It is hoped that once the plants and flowers are growing, they will provide the necessary amount of oxygen for the silkworms to survive, which, in turn, will provide the plants with carbon dioxide. If the plants do undergo photosynthesis, they may end up thriving in their lunar environment, as chief designer Xie Gengxin explained.
“We want to study the respiration of the seeds and the photosynthesis on the moon.”
China landed a robot on the far side of the moon! And get this: they're planting flowers! ????????????????????????https://t.co/owESncfG0c— MyScientistFriend (@MySciFriend) January 3, 2019
Liu Hanlong, who is the chief director and vice president of Chongqing University, stated that the crops and flowers that have been chosen to grow on the far side of the moon were picked due to their short growth periods, and also with the idea that if potatoes are successfully able to grow on the lunar surface, they would certainly be a handy crop for astronauts heading out into space in the future.
“Why potato and Arabidopsis? Because the growth period of Arabidopsis is short and convenient to observe. And potato could become a major source of food for future space travelers. Our experiment might help accumulate knowledge for building a lunar base and long-term residence on the moon.”
With the Chang’e-4 probe now on the far side of the moon, scientists will soon know if it is possible to grow things like flowers and potatoes on the lunar surface, and if, for now, at least some other form of life exists elsewhere besides Earth.