It turns out moon-farming is much more complicated than what it actually looks like, with hazards coming in from all sides and don’t forget the zero effect of gravity. Yet despite all the challenges, representatives working on the Chinese moon lander Chang’e-4 announced this week that they had successfully sprouted a plant on the moon for the first time ever!

Cotton plant on the moon
Cotton plant sprouting during the period of study

The moon gets plenty of sunlight, in some areas, although the moon lacks the protection that the earth do possesses that sunlight does a lot more harm than good, at least to plants. Cosmic radiations and solar flares directly from the sun can fry a plant before it even gets a chance to grow. That’s why the University of Arizona’s moon-farm simulator, at the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, with only the aid of  artificial lighting.

chang e' 4
The space ship used for the study

Chang’e-4’s mission included an attempt at a self-contained biosystem, with seeds, nutrients, water, yeast, and fruit fly eggs, to be composed into a hydroponic circulation setup. According to Nature, which spoke to the chief designer of the experiment, the project succeeded in sprouting cotton plants, with future plans for both potatoes and Arabidopsis. (The latter is a relative of kale that’s commonly used in experiments.) The China National Space Administration posted pictures of the sprouting cotton, dated January 7th, 2019

According to Ink stone News, a publication which will be dedicated to Chinese stories, the experiment actually ended when the plants died, in a 12-day-long lunar night that shortly followed the cotton’s sprouting. Inkstone says that the Chang’e-4 hadn’t brought enough power to maintain the rigid temperature controls for long.

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