Chang’e-4 Performs First Biological Lunar Experiment in History

China's Moon mission sees first seeds sprout.

China continues making history.

Not only have they become the first country in the world to successfully land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon, but they have also now become the first country in the world to perform a biological experiment with organisms on the far side of the moon.

As you are reading this, the Chinese lender is carrying out the first biological experiments on the far side of the moon, and the cotton seeds it carried on board have begun to sprout, according to reports.

The Chinese lunar explorer, which successfully landed on the far side of the moon on January 3, transported to the moon a ‘biological package’ and contains a number of objects including seeds of potato, soil, silkworm cocoon, water source, air, and cameras.

It weighs 3 kg in total inclusive of the external insulating layer.

China’s Xinhua news agency explained that the seeds were rendered dormant using “biological technology” during the spacecraft’s journey from Earth to the Moon.

Chinese scientists will observe cotton seeds located inside a protective cylinder aboard the Chang’e 4 lander. Image Credit: cqu.edu.cn.

The objective is to observe germination, growth, and respiration of these organisms in the low gravity conditions existing on the lunar surface, and to try to create a “mini biosphere”, which could produce the first flower on the Moon.

“This will be the first time in human history a mini biosphere experiment is conducted on the lunar surface. Our goal is to have the first flower blossoming on the moon,” Xie Gengxin, president of Research Institute of National Defense Science and Technology of Chongqing University explained.

“As we know, no air nor oxygen exists on the moon, and the temperature is always very extreme (over 100 degree Celsius in the daytime and 180 degree Celsius below freezing at night). Even if some of them leaked, they would have no chance to survive, they would be decomposed to harmless organics with no pollution on the moon,” he added.

A photo of the cotton sprout. ‘This is the first time humans have done biological growth experiments on the lunar surface,’ said Xie Gengxin, who led the design of the experiment. Image Credit: cqu.edu.cn.
A photo of the cotton sprout. ‘This is the first time humans have done biological growth experiments on the lunar surface,’ said Xie Gengxin, who led the design of the experiment. Image Credit: cqu.edu.cn.

The Chinese biological experiment is carried inside a small sealed container, so Chinese scientists say it is impossible to pollute the lunar environment.

As Professor Gengxin explained to CGTN, “one of the key challenges is to control and adjust the temperature within such a small area. They have tried many new materials and technologies.”

“Researchers from Chongqing University are now monitoring the growth data 24 hours a day, and recording the latest condition accordingly. Since 2015, researchers and scientists from Chongqing University have brought this project from idea to reality.”

Needless to say, the Chinese are ‘sciencing’ the sh** out of the moon.

Regardless of the results, Professor Xie says the team has opened a new chapter in space experiments.

The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) recently released several images taken by the lander including panoramic images of the landing site as well as video of the vehicles touching down and exploring the lunar landscape.

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