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According to the Chinese space agency CNSA there are plants growing on the Moon for the first time ever. Seedlings of a cotton plant to be precise, the seeds where taking to the Moon by the Chang’e-4 probe.
On the 7th of december China launched the probe to the ‘dark side’ of the Moon containing a robot designed to do research on the surface. With it it took cotton seeds, potato seeds, yeast as well as fruit fly eggs for studying. According to the Chinese it is their plan to prepare for a manned mission to the Moon and that they might eventually even use the Moon as a stopover for Mars.
According to Wieger Wamelink, an ecologist and exobiologist from Wageningen University (WUR) this is a extraordinary milestone and an exceptional performance. Although there is still some vagueness around the subject as we can, as of now, only study the pictures that have been released. Growing seedlings on the Moon is a big but logical next step following up on the research on the International space station where plants are also grown.
Wamelink declares this occurrence to be even more significant though as it means that we can grow food on the Moon without the need for astronauts to be in close proximity. At the International Space Stations astronauts can personally intervene to optimize plant growth.
The cottons seedlings grew from soil taken from earth. Right now it is not clear if research on potato seeds, yeast and fruit fly eggs has had similar results. Wamelink’s guess is that it has not, at least for now, otherwise he would imagine there would have been a press release about those as well. That only the cotton plant succeeded could have different causes. It could be possible that some of the seeds transited into a ‘sleep phase’ during their journey to the Moon. Similar to seeds that find themselves in a resting face on earth during winter time.
Colony on the moon
The possibility of completely automated food growing provides us with loads of options for colonizing the Moon. It is very inefficient and expensive to send a resupply rocket with food grown on earth to sustain a population. If we want to realistically live on the Moon, colonists will have to be able to grow their own food. According to Wamelink a colony could be possible as soon as 2030.
A colony would be vital for scientific research but there is also the possibility of Moon mining as the Moon is rich in resources further cultivating the potential of the Moon as a pitstop for travel to Mars. Another benefit being the Moon’s low gravity.
At Universal-Sci we are very excited to see what the future will bring regarding our Moon!
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