Chang’e-4 lander on Moon’s farside. Image taken by Yutu-2 rover. Credit: CNSA/CLEP

China’s Chang’e-4 farside mission toted to the Moon a unique biological experiment.

China Global Television Network (CGTN) reports that a team of scientists from Chongqing University developed a small biological payload that’s aboard the Chang’e-4 lander.

This small tin weighs less than 7 pounds (3 kilograms) and carries seeds of cotton, potato, Arabidopsis, rapeseed, fruit fly pupa and yeast.

Micro-ecosystem carried to Moon’s farside aboard China’s Chang’e-4 lunar lander.
Credit: Chongqing University

Micro-ecosystem

Professor Xie Gengxin is the Chief Designer of this biological experiment payload on the Chang’e-4. He told CGTN that there are animal, plants and microorganisms in this payload, creating a micro-ecosystem. They used a light pipe to guide the sunlight inside the tin, they will study their photosynthesis under strong sunlight.

The lunar environment features low gravity, bright sunlight and radiation. Professor Xie says the water inside the payload has been released, and the seeds will soon sprout.

To better understand how plants and animals grow in different environments, researchers have set up two identical payloads which start simultaneously: One on Earth, one on the Moon.

Growth data

Professor Xie says one of the key challenges is to control and adjust the temperature within such a small area. They have tried many new materials and technologies. Researchers from Chongqing University are now monitoring the growth data 24 hours a day, and recording the latest condition accordingly. Since 2015, researchers and scientists from Chongqing University have brought this project from idea to reality.

Liu Hanlong, the Vice President of Chongqing University told CGTN that this biological experiment payload was chosen from almost 300 projects nationwide. Professors and researchers from Chongqing led the way, but they also cooperated with researchers from over 20 domestic institutes and universities.

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