Chang’e-4 lander carries mini-biosphere.

China’s Chang’e-4’s biological experiment returns the first farside results:  a cotton seed has sprouted on the Moon.

The mini-biosphere onboard the lander, designed by Chongqing University, is a canister containing the seeds of cotton, rapeseed, potato, and arabidopsis, as well as eggs of the fruit fly and some yeast.

Credit: China Central Television (CCTV)/Chongqing University/Screengrab/Inside Outer Space

After Chang’e-4 touched down on the farside of the Moon on January 3, ground control instructed the probe to water the plants to start the growing process. A tube directs natural light on the surface of the Moon into the canister to allow the plants to grow.


Camera images

In a Xinhua news service story professor Xie Gengxin of Chongqing University notes that images sent by the probe showed that a cotton sprout had started to grow, though no other plants were found growing.

Credit: China Central Television (CCTV)/Chongqing University

More than 170 pictures have been taken by cameras and transmitted back to Earth, according to the team.

The cylinder canister, made from special aluminum alloy materials weighs 6 pounds (2.6 kilograms). It also holds water, soil, air, two small cameras, and a heat control system, Xie told Xinhua.

Biological technology

Xie explains that potatoes could be a major source of food for future space travelers.

Credit: XinhuaVideo/Screengrab/Inside Outer Space

The growth period of Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard, is short and easy to observe. Yeast could play a role in regulating carbon dioxide and oxygen in the mini biosphere, and the fruit fly would be the consumer of the photosynthesis process.

Researchers used biological technology to render the seeds and eggs dormant during the two months when the Chang’e-4 mission went through final checks at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, followed by a space trek of more than 20 days through space.


Credit: XinhuaVideo


Credit: China Central Television (CCTV)/Chongqing University


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