Chang’e-4 Moon lander and rover.

China is readying its Chang’e-4 lunar probe for liftoff later this year.

While attempting the first landing on the Moon’s far side – it’s got a “seedy side” too.

According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, the probe will carry a tin containing seeds of potato and arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard. It may also tote along silkworm eggs to conduct the first biological experiment on the Moon.

Mini-biosphere

This “lunar mini biosphere” experiment was designed by 28 Chinese universities, led by southwest China’s Chongqing University, The cylindrical tin, made from special aluminum alloy materials, weighs roughly 7 pounds (3 kilograms).

The tin also contains water, a nutrient solution, and air. A tiny camera and data transmission system allows researchers to keep an eye on the seeds and see if they blossom on the Moon.

Von Karman Crater as viewed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Long-term lunar residence

“We have to keep the temperature in the ‘mini biosphere’ within a range from 1 degree to 30 degrees, and properly control the humidity and nutrition. We will use a tube to direct the natural light on the surface of Moon into the tin to make the plants grow,” said Xie Gengxin, chief designer of the experiment, in the Xinhua story.

Added Liu Hanlong, chief director of the experiment and vice president of Chongqing University: “Our experiment might help accumulate knowledge for building a lunar base and long-term residence on the Moon.”

The Moon-bound mini biosphere experiment was selected from more than 200 submissions, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

The Von Karman Crater in the Moon’s Aitken Basin is the anticipated landing site for Chang’e-4.

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