The dark side of the moon may not be so mysterious anymore. China’s space agency launched an experimental mission to the far side of the moon, and so far it has been immensely successful. The China National Space Administration shared some of the first photos of the far side of the moon from its robotic mission. One day the moon could be covered by vegetation because China is trying to grow plants on the far side of moon.
The China National Space Administration shared a photo with the People’s Daily, a Chinese newspaper, which reveals cotton seed the Chang’e-4 spacecraft delivered to the moon. The seed has sprouted, which indicates China is finding early success in its attempts to grow plants on the far side of the moon. The photo was posted on Twitter.
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
The cotton seeds were just the first to germinate on the moon. According to the South China Morning Post, professor Liu Hanlong of Chongqing University, who is leading the study of the plants being grown on the moon, discovered that other seeds have since sprouted, including rapeseed and potato seeds.
Although this endeavor seems successful, it’s natural to wonder how China has been able to grow plants on the far side of the moon, given the frigid, lifeless conditions there. The cotton plant is actually being grown in a specially designed environment inside the Chang’e-4 probe.
The spacecraft touched down on the far side of the moon on Jan. 3, and it is growing plants and crops in an airtight chamber there despite the cruel conditions. The box is called a moon surface micro-ecological circle. The aluminum alloy cylinder measures 18 centimeters high and contains silkworm eggs and potato and rockcress seeds.
Scientists hope both plants will root and sprout in the container during the 100-day experimental period they have set for the plants. They also hope the artificial conditions in the container will allow the silkworm eggs to hatch into moths. Liu said all these growing attempts are just the beginning of their lunar exploration and could help scientists focus on building a lunar base 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,” Liu said. “Our experiment might help accumulate knowledge for building a lunar base and long-term residence on the moon.”
Despite China’s early success, it will still be hard to grow plants on the far side of the moon and hatch eggs because of the moon’s extreme temperatures. The lunar surface can heat up to 202 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and drop to -280 degrees Fahrenheit at night.