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China's Moon mission sees first seeds sprout

January 16, 2019 2:56 pm
Cotton sprouts seen close-up under a protective cover on board the Moon lander [Source: CLEP]

Seeds taken up to the Moon by China’s Chang’e-4 mission have sprouted, says China National Space Administration.

It marks the first time any biological matter has grown on the Moon, and is being seen as a significant step towards long-term space exploration.

The Chang’e 4 is the first mission to land on and explore the Moon’s far side, facing away from Earth.

It touched down on 3 January, carrying instruments to analyse the region’s geology.

Plants have been grown on the International Space Station before but never on the Moon.

The ability to grow plants on the Moon will be integral for long-term space missions, like a trip to Mars which would take about two-and-a-half years.

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

The Chinese Moon lander was carrying among its cargo soil containing cotton and potato seeds, yeast and fruit fly eggs.

The plants are in a sealed container on board the lander. The crops will try to form a mini biosphere – an artificial, self-sustaining environment.