Cottoning on: Chinese seed sprouts on moon

The sprout has emerged inside a canister since the Chang'e-4 lander set down on the moon's surface earlier this month
The sprout has emerged inside a canister since the Chang'e-4 lander set down on the moon's surface earlier this month

A small green shoot is growing on the moon in an out-of-this-world first after a cotton seed germinated on board a Chinese lunar lander, scientists said Tuesday.

The sprout has emerged from a lattice-like structure inside a canister since the Chang'e-4 lander set down earlier this month, according to a series of photos released by the Advanced Technology Research Institute at Chongqing University.

"This is the first time humans have done biological growth experiments on the ," said Xie Gengxin, who led the design of the experiment.

The Chang'e-4 probe—named after a Chinese moon goddess—made the world's first soft landing on the moon's "dark side" on January 3, a major step in China's ambitions to become a space superpower.

Scientists from Chongqing University —who designed the "mini lunar biosphere" experiment—sent an 18-centimetre (seven-inch) bucket-like container holding air, water and soil.

Inside are cotton, potato, and arabidopsis seeds—a plant of the mustard family—as well as fruit fly eggs and yeast.

Images sent back by the probe show a cotton sprout has grown well, but so far none of the other plants has taken, the university said.

Chang'e-4 is also equipped with instruments developed by scientists from Sweden, Germany and China to study the lunar environment, and the interaction between solar wind and the moon's surface.

The lander released a rover, dubbed Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit), that will perform experiments in the Von Karman Crater.

The 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.

China wants to establish a lunar research base one day, possibly using 3D printing technology to build facilities, the Chinese space agency said Monday.

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© 2019 AFP

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Jan 15, 2019
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Jan 15, 2019
My apologies moderators for my "POINTLESS VERBIAGE".

I recognize now that expressing excitement and complementing the achievements of scientists for their work, with a simple exclamation has no place on

Luckily scientists will continue to do great work, like grow the first plant on different world, while you do the ever so important job of moderating the hollowed comment section of this fine website.

Jan 15, 2019
Wait a cotton pickin' minute!

This is a critical experiment & needs to be repeated, dozens of times. Not just on the Moon but also in a variety of orbits.

The truly exciting, earth-shaking results are when this cotton plant seeds & those seeds also sprout. Even if they have ti be fertilized ny hand.

Growing true over a sequence of generations. Perhaps it may need a series of reinforcing stock from Earth, in order to thrive?

Jan 15, 2019
Everyone knows
soil from planet earth
inside a container
cotten seeds will
in zero gravity
and 1/6 earth's gravity

This experiment
is supposedly growing seeds in moon soil
inside a container on the moon
that we do not have to transport
Millions of tons of earth soil to the moon

Jan 15, 2019
The following is not clear:
Was it the lunar soil?
Did the plant grow in the open space in lunar vacuum or inside a gas chamber?
Was the light artificial or Solar?

If answers to all above questions are negative, this lunar-biosphere experiment could also have been done in a vacuum lab with lunar g on earth in a much cheaper way.

Jan 15, 2019 I sensing the deceptive nature of this new Chinese claim?

Jan 15, 2019
It looks like to me that people are reading a lot more into what was actually said.

"who designed the "mini lunar biosphere" experiment—sent an 18-centimetre (seven-inch) bucket-like container holding air, water and soil."

Notice air, water and soil. The air and water had to come from the Earth, and there isn't anything in the statement that said they took the soil from the moon, so there is no reason to believe that is what was done.

People seem to want to run before they walk, doing any "growing experiment" is useful if nothing more than looking at the effects for that kind of radiation and probably not that expensive given that the rover was going there anyways for other purposes. This is a "why not" experiement.

Jan 15, 2019
It was ALL PREPACKAGED before it left Earth. And it is in an ENCLOSED environment that is only somewhat similar to Earth's environment/climate. It hasn't been outside of the lander so that it is almost in a protective "cocoon".
It would be interesting to see what would happen to the sprout if the enclosure was opened to allow the Moon's atmosphere in.
Frankly, I feel a bit sorry for the fruit flies. The other seeds might just be late bloomers.

Jan 15, 2019 I sensing the deceptive nature of this new Chinese claim?
says guptm

Anything is possible with the Communist Chinese - their scientists AND politicians are of a different culture and ethics so that what they do on the far side of the Moon can only be guessed at by American, Japanese and European scientists and politicians. After they have accomplished their experiments - what will they do next? What will they plan to send to that far side - after all is said and done? Possibly something nefarious and deadly to the US?

Jan 16, 2019
The Chinese are desperate about their population. They are exporting their people to other countries to dilute the problem at home. They are taking over huge operations (a kind of latter-day colonialism) such as mining in Africa. Food security research makes sense for them.

Jan 16, 2019
That gonna work at night?

Night is 14 days long on the Moon.

I mean, just askin'.

Expecting that seeds will not germinate on the Moon if given proper air, water, and soil is stupid.

Jan 16, 2019
So much for trying to prevent contamination of the environment of the moon from earth microbes! doesn't the rest of the world decontaminate their spacecraft to protect the Moon and other Planets? The authors forgot that agreement while stumbling all over themselves trying to show s how wonderful the Chinese form of dictatorship is.

Jan 16, 2019
Errr, there's no air on the Moon.

Jan 16, 2019
They're doing this on the far side of the moon because part of what they are doing they want to keep secret.

Jan 18, 2019

They're doing this on the far side of the moon because part of what they are doing they want to keep secret.

But also the near-side had already been reached by US astronauts so that the science of that "half" had been "checked out" by our side, and Moonrocks brought back.
The puzzler is that the NASA seemed to give up on its ambitions to continue more manned Moon missions after the last one in the 1970s while giving the hardware as an excuse not to go back.
There was also the "conspiracy theory" allegedly told by an astronaut that they were warned to not go back to the Moon, and that one of the astronauts had seen what resembled "structures and ships" on the Moon's surface.
Who knows whether it was true or not? But if true, then it is possible that future Chinese astronauts to the Moon just might encounter something living there. I hope - for their sake that it is just a conspiracy theory.

Jan 18, 2019
Fly me to the moon

These moon sprouts sprouted
but not how you think
these propagandists Moonchinians
before hand
planted these moon sprouts
in earth soil
sealed in earth atmosphere
flew it to moon
as on the way
this Moonchinian concoction
germinated in flight
on this darkside
theses moon sprouts, sprouted
sealed in their plant pot
propagandist Moonchinians one, Americaninians nil
as Frank Sinatra says, with a straight face "please be true"
Frank Sinatra Fly Me To The Moon

Jan 23, 2019
its not any big deal. its not as if it was planted by the lander in moon soil and then it sprouted in vaccuum

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