Moon Cotton

China’s Lander Just Sprouted First-Ever Plants on the Moon

It's the first time humans have ever successfully grown anything on the lunar surface.

1. 15. 19 by Victor Tangermann
Chongqing University
Image by Chongqing University

Moon Cotton

For the first time in history, humans have grown something on the surface of the Moon.

When China’s Chang’e-4 lander left on its journey to the far side of the Moon — the less-studied, mountainous half that faces away from the Earth — it brought along seeds and other Earth-based species including fruit flies and yeast in a sealed growing container.

Now its cotton seeds have officially sprouted, Chinese news site Xinhua reports. It’s a historic moment: it’s the first biological experiment of any kind on the surface of another world.


Groundbreaking Experiment

Earthling scientists have grown plenty of things in outer space — experiments aboard the International Space Station, for instance, have managed to root zucchini plants.

The experiment on the Moon is being carried out by researchers and students at Chongqing University in central China. An identical control experiment back on Earth has seen a lot more growth so far, GB Times reports.

Sealed Ecosystem

The canister was fully sealed to protect the seeds from radiation and extreme temperatures, the South China Morning Post reports. But it did allow in light for photosynthesis — it even generated some oxygen for the fruit flies that were also placed inside the container.

Chang’e-4 launched on Dec. 7 to explore the differences between the far and near side of the Moon in terms of their mineral composition and structure. But its biological experiments could lay the groundwork for future missions to the Moon or even colonization — and redefine the way we look at our closest neighbor.


READ MORE: China’s lunar lander successfully sprouts cotton on the Moon [The Verge]

More on China’s Chang’e-4 lander: See China’s Lunar Rover Set Off Across the Far Side of the Moon

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