China moon: First crops sprout - potatoes in 100 days

China moon: First crops sprout - potatoes in 100 days

China moon: First crops sprout - potatoes in 100 days

China has sprouted a cotton seed on the moon - and hopes to be growing potatoes on the dark side of Earth's neighbor within the next 100 days, it's been revealed.

The breakthrough is a massive leap towards sustainable deep space colonization. The development could be significant for future long-term space missions.

The cotton seed grew in a lattice-like structure inside a canister after the lander touched down on the moon on January 3, say researchers at Chongqing University. Yeast would then decompose plant and fruit waste while also providing a food source for the insects.

Astronauts have previously cultivated plants on the International Space Station and China's Tiangong-2 space laboratory.

He said that the plants inside were "producers, consumers and decomposers", providing their own self-sustaining ecosystem. But the closest that terrestrial vegetation has come to the moon before now was in 1971, when Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa carried hundreds of tree seeds to orbit the moon with him.

Chinese media state that the experiment contains six species: cotton, rapeseed, potato, arabidopsis, fruit fly and yeast, with Xinhua reporting that no signs of growth have been found among the species other than cotton.

A combination of "the biological experiment on the moon's surface, the first plant buds to be cultivated on the moon, and, over time, the first green leaf grown on the moon, provides foundations for research and experience for human beings to establish a lunar base in the future".

According to Wu, the Chang'e 6 mission will be created to bring samples back from the south pole of the moon and this will be followed by probes that will conduct comprehensive surveys of the area.

While China has insisted that the probe prevents any organisms on its lunar lander from contaminating the surface, earlier space explorers were not so cautious.

China is energetically expanding its space program.

"Experts are still discussing and verifying the feasibility of subsequent projects, but it's confirmed that there will be another three missions after Chang'e 5", said Wu.

There are also plans for the missions to explore the possibility of building a lunar research base possibly using 3D printing.

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