Weeks ago, China became the first nation to land a lunar rover on the dark side of the Moon, marking a historic high point for the nation’s space program that has been rapidly closing the capability gap created by decades of American and Russian space endeavors. This week, China announced yet another historic first that has long-lasting implications for manned space exploration in the future: China is growing plants on the Moon.
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 confirmation that cotton seeds have begun to sprout aboard China’s Chang’e 4 lunar lander marks the first time biological matter has been grown on the Moon’s surface. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have, however, grown a variety of plants in low Earth orbit. China’s self-contained miniature biosphere includes seeds for plants like cotton, potatoes, rapeseed, and yeast, along with fruit fly eggs. The experiment hopes to establish and maintain a self-reliant environment that proves man-made ecospheres can indeed survive on the lunar surface.