History has just been made as China’s Chang’e-4 mission has just seen its seeds sprout on the far side of the moon. This makes the occasion the very first time that biological matter of any kind has been successfully propagated there.
As the BBC reports, China’s Chang’e-4 lander first made its descent on the far side of the moon on January 3 — and carried with it a tremendous amount of instruments to perform different experiments with.
However, one of the most exciting of these experiments was China’s attempt to grow plants on the moon. Because while plants have certainly been successfully grown in space on board the International Space Station, nothing like this has ever happened on the moon — or any other heavenly body — before now.
And assuming that scientists continue to have wild success with growing plants on the moon, this could have a huge impact on the future of space travel. It would be beneficial if astronauts had a steady supply of food available to them in space, without the need to head back to Earth to stock up again. This would be especially helpful for missions to Mars, as these would last for a duration of approximately two-and-a-half years.
On Tuesday, China announced that cotton seeds contained within the lunar lander had sprouted, and the People’s Daily posted a photograph of this momentous event on Twitter. The publication noted that the sprouting of the first plants on the moon heralded “the completion of humankind’s first biological experiment on the Moon.”
First in human history: A cotton seed brought to the moon by China's Chang'e 4 probe has sprouted, the latest test photo has shown, marking the completion of humankind's first biological experiment on the moon pic.twitter.com/CSSbgEoZmC— People's Daily, China (@PDChina) January 15, 2019
Fred Watson, an astronomer at the Australian Astronomical Observatory, has explained that China’s sprouting cotton seeds were “good news” for scientists everywhere, as it has now provided the hope that growing plants and food in space may not be an issue after all.
“It suggests that there might not be insurmountable problems for astronauts in the future trying to grow their own crops on the moon in a controlled environment. I think there’s certainly a great deal of interest in using the moon as staging post, particularly for flights to Mars, because it’s relatively near the Earth.”
Professor Xie Gengxin, who is the chief designer behind the first plant that has been grown on the moon, has stated,”Learning about these plants’ growth in a low-gravity environment would allow us to lay the foundation for our future establishment of [a] space base.”
With reports of the sprouting cotton from China’s Chang’e-4 mission, the first biological matter of any kind that has been grown on the moon, a verdant moon base filled with plants and life may be just around the corner.