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There are plants and animals on the Moon now (because of China)

Is the moon really “a strict mistress?” (Composite image)
(World Perspectives/Getty Images)

Chinese Chang’e-4 lander landed on the far side of the moon (Jan. 3 Beijing time, Jan. 2 US), and some living creatures on board.

A small “tin” in the lander contains seeds of potatoes, and rockcress (Arabidopsis thaliana, a flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard, as well as a model organism for plant biology), as well as silkworm eggs. The idea, according to a report in The Telegraph earlier this year, is that the plants in the support of the silkworms with oxygen, and the silkworm will in turn provide the plant with the necessary carbon dioxide and nutrients through their waste. The researchers look at the plants carefully to see if the plants can successfully execute the photosynthesis, and to grow and flourish in the environment of the moon.

“We want the study of the respiration of the seeds and photosynthesis on the moon,” Xie Gengxin, chief designer of the experiment, told Xinhua, the Chinese state-run news agency. [See Spectacular Moon-Mission 3D Images (Photos)]

The “biosphere” experiment was the product of a collaboration between the 28 and Chinese universities, led by the southwest of China, Chongqing University, according to Xinhua. The experiment, which is located in a 1.4-pint (0.8 liter) aluminum cylinder, weighs about 7 pounds. (3 kilos) and includes dirt, nutrients, and water. The sunlight will filter into the container by means of a “tube”, and tiny cameras will be watching the small environment. These data will beam back to the Earth by means of the complicated relay system, China has set to communicate with an experiment that has no direct line of sight on the Earth.

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“Why potato and Arabidopsis? Because the growth period of Arabidopsis is short and easy to observe. And the potato is an important source of food for future space travelers,” said Liu Hanlong, managing director of the experiment and the vice-president of Chongqing University, as reported by Xinhua. “Our experiment could help to collect knowledge for building a lunar base and long-term stay on the moon.”

Rockcress is grown in the space, such as in an experiment on the International Space Station proved that plants’ leaves appear to rise and fall as she discovered the moon is the force of gravity. But whether the flowering plant to bloom in the vicinity of the far side of the moon remains an open question.

For now, though, this means that there is a life, in at least one other place in the solar system (even if it is only because we put it there).

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Originally published on Live Science.

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