There is officially life on the moon. A cotton seed has sprouted just two weeks after China’s Chang’e-4 mission landed successfully on the moon. Inside the mini biosphere, there is now growth.
Though there have been many instances of plant growth in space, this is the first to take place in such an extreme environment. Though previous plant growth took place inside of Earth’s orbit, none took place on any other surface than Earth. It is officially the first plant to grow in a lunar environment.
The mission landed after three weeks in lunar orbit. Immediately after the landing on Jan. 3, the experiment was activated and given water. Just four days after, there was a cotton sprout. Today, China released photos of the sprout nearly a week later along with the control experiment done on Earth.
First in human history: A cotton seed brought to the moon by China's Chang'e 4 probe has sprouted, the latest test photo has shown, marking the completion of humankind's first biological experiment on the moon pic.twitter.com/CSSbgEoZmC
— People's Daily, China (@PDChina) January 15, 2019
The Chang’e-4 mission is the first man-made vehicle (a lander and rover) to land safely on the far side on the moon and has conducted the moon’s first, as well as successful, biological experiment. The probe is also equipped with other species, including potatoes, rapeseed and Arabidopsis, as well as fruit fly eggs and yeast in an attempt to build a small ecosystem and promote germination. There was debate whether or not the mission would include silk worms, but it was finally announced that the worms would be substituted for the fruit flies. The species were carefully selected, as they required endurance in the extreme environment. And though the cotton was successful, none of the other seeds have shown progress so far.
The experiment is monitored 24 hours a day by scientists at Chongqing University in southwest China. They have been working with 26 other scientific research institutions across China. The experiment is monitored and analyzed by many around the clock as China continues its moon mission and research. There will be follow-up visits with the Chang’e-5 sample return and separate missions to the South-pole of the Moon in the 2020’s.
Life has officially sprouted outside of earth and proved that ecosystems can be sustained in different planetary environments. China’s advancements mark the first instance of life in lunar settings and open doors to future life and expansion.