Seeds have sprouted on the Moon for the very first time!
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) stashed cotton, rape, potato and rockcress seeds aboard the Chang'e lander, which was Earth's first spacecraft to successfully touch down on the far side of the Moon earlier this month having blasted off at the start of December.
The mission, titled Chang'e 4, is meant to accomplish a range of tasks, including conducting the first lunar low-frequency radio astronomy experiment and exploring whether there is water at the moon's poles.
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This plant growth could support future long-term space exploration and habitation.
Images released by the CNSA now appear to show cotton seeds sprouting, in what the ruling Communist Party's official mouthpiece, The People's Daily, labelled a "first in human history". China's space agency says it worked with NASA to collect data from the far side of the moon. According to the BBC, the sprouts are part of an ongoing experiment to test photosynthesis and respiration. The Chinese space agency said four more lunar missions are planned, confirming the launch of a probe by the end of the year to bring back samples from the moon. In the container, the organisms have air, water, nutrients, and a controlled temperature and humidity that is allowing them to grow. The cotton seed was the only one to sprout.
In a hypothetical habitable lunar environment, the cotton seeds could provide material to make fabric, the potatoes and rockcress would provide food, and the rapeseed could be used to produce oil, Xie Gengxin, the chief designer of the project, told SCMP.
Wu Yanhua, the deputy head of the China National Space Administration also announced that China will send a mission to Mars in 2020. Scientists from Sweden, Germany and China are involved in the making of the instruments required for Chang'e 4 to study the lunar environment, cosmic radiation and interaction between solar wind and the moon's surface.