Credit: Chongqing University

Farside photo. CGTN story shows an image of the first-ever cotton sprout on the Moon, released by the Chongqing University which led the design team of the biological payload on the Chang’e-4 lunar mission. Credit: Chongqing University Photo  

China’s farside lander carried to the lunar surface an experiment devised by Chongqing University. Six living things — cotton, rapeseed, potato, thale cress, yeast and fruit flies – form a simple micro ecosystem.

Chinese media now reports that nightfall on the Moon has the mini-biosphere’s temperature dropping to nearly 180-degree centigrade below freezing. China Daily reports: “All the equipment has powered down, and the remaining seeds and animals will be gradually decomposed down to organic fundamentals.”

The Chang’e-4 test on the Moon’s farside began on January 3 and finished on Saturday, lasting about 213 hours and involved the transmission of over 170 pictures, reports China Daily.

Cotton shoots

At 8 pm on Saturday, the biological experiment sent back a photo showing that the cotton shoots had emerged and the plants were growing well inside the sealed test can, according to Chongqing University, which leads the biological science project for the Chang’e-4 mission.

“It is the first time humans have conducted a biological growth and cultivation experiment on the surface of the Moon,” Liu Hanlong, director of the project and deputy head of Chongqing University, said at a news conference on Tuesday. “It will provide valuable basic information and experience for building a moon base in the future.”

Ground unit.
Credit: Chongqing University

Ground unit.
Credit: Chongqing University

Cultivation of confusion

Part of the cultivation of confusion comes from photos taken of the ground unit, a comparative experiment on Earth. Scientists set up two identical payloads which started simultaneously: One on the Moon, one on Earth.

Chongqing University on Tuesday showed that one of the cotton seeds, taken up to the Moon by the lunar exploration probe, has sprouted. “We can confirm that the cotton has sprouted,” said Xie Gengxin, chief engineer of the biological project. “We are not sure about the other living things as the cameras didn’t record their activity.”

As tweeted via the journal, Astrobiology: “Update – the earlier 2 pictures we tweeted are being circulated by Chinese media. But they are actually from a ground unit of the #Change4 greenhouse. This is a picture from the farside of the Moon. It will be interesting to compare the growth. #astrobiology #spacebiology”

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