China moon: First crops sprout - potatoes in 100 days

China moon: First crops sprout - potatoes in 100 days

For the first time anybody is aware of, seeds have sprouted on a celestial body beyond Earth. The ability to grow plants in space is seen as crucial for long-term space missions and establishing human outposts elsewhere in the solar system, such as Mars.

Flush from the success of the world's first rover mission to the moon's far side, Chinese space officials said today that they're planning robotic trips to the lunar south pole to prepare the way for a crewed moon base. According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, "in Native American and early Colonial times, the full moon for January was called the Full Wolf Moon".

China has released fantastic footage of the descent of the Chang'e-4 spacecraft which shows the historic moment of the first landing on the far side of the Moon.

It would mean that astronauts could potentially harvest their own food in space, reducing the need to come back down to Earth to resupply.

On Tuesday, Chinese state media said the cotton seeds had now grown buds.

Fred Watson, Australian Astronomical Observatory's astronomer-at-large was also encouraged by the progress.

"We have given consideration to future survival in space", professor Xie Gengxin, the experiment's chief designer, told the South China Morning Post.

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In an attempt to better understand how plants and animals could grow and live on the lunar surface, Chongqing University equipped the Chang'e 4 lander with a "mini-biosphere" experiment, which is created to be a self-sustaining ecosystem, according to Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua.

Cotton could eventually be used for clothing, potatoes would provide food and rapeseed would make oil.

Tests carried out by future missions could lay the groundwork for building on the moon's surface, by testing technologies like 3D printing or the use of moon soil in construction, he said.

They only began growing once ground control centre sent a command to the probe to water the seeds.

"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 Yanhua, deputy head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), at a press conference.

Images sent back by the probe show a cotton plant has grown well, but so far none of the other plants had sprouted, the university said. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of, its sponsors or advertisers.

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