Science 2 min read

First: China Successfully Grows Seedlings on the Moon

In a first for humankind, China has successfully grown seedlings on the moon, making it the first nation to cultivate plant life on an alien world.

Photo of the cotton seedlings inside the biosphere created by CQU. | China Xinhua News Twitter

Photo of the cotton seedlings inside the biosphere created by CQU. | China Xinhua News Twitter

Aside from exploring the far side of the moon, the Chang’E 4 mission is also set to conduct a series of experiments never been tried before on the lunar surface. The most interesting, and possibly most groundbreaking of these, is sprouting the first seedlings on the moon.

On Tuesday, the state-owned Xinhua News Agency posted some progress images of the seedlings inside a biosphere habitat onboard the Chang’E lander. The photos showed the nine-day growth progress of cotton seedlings, with one eventually sprouting and reaching up inside the habitat.

The sprouting experiment, first successfully tested on the International Space Station, was designed by a team of researchers from the Chongqing University in China. This time, the team developed the sealed biosphere habitat filled with fruit fly eggs, yeast, and seeds, hoping to establish a mini ecosystem on the lunar surface.

Growing Seedlings on the Moon

“The plants would generate oxygen and food for other living things to ‘consume’. The Drosophila melanogaster, as consumers, and yeast, as decomposers, would generate carbon dioxide by consuming oxygen for photosynthesis of plants,” The Chongqing University researchers wrote.

“In addition, the yeast can decompose the waste of plants and Drosophila melanogaster and grow, and can also serve as food of Drosophila melanogaster. With this circle, a mini biosphere comprising producers, consumers, and decomposers is formed.”

The metal cannister used by Chinese researcher to sprout the first seedlings on the moon
The metal canister used by Chinese researcher to sprout the first seedlings on the moon | CQU

In a tweet posted by another state-owned media outlet, the People’s Daily, they refer to the seedling experiment as “the completion of humankind’s first biological experiment on the Moon.”

While the experiment is another baby step toward humankind’s goal of establishing habitable ecosystems outside our planet, some criticized the experiment, claiming the research would contaminate the moon. Experts commented on the irrelevancy of this statement by mentioning the large amount of debris already left on the moon by previous missions.

“We have given consideration to future survival in space,” Xie Genxing, the experiment’s chief designer, was quoted as saying.

“Learning about these plants’ growth in a low-gravity environment would allow us to lay the foundation for our future establishment of space base.”

How close do you think we are to developing an artificial habitat on another planet?

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Rechelle is an SEO content producer, technical writer, researcher, social media manager, and visual artist. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with family and friends.

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