The China National Space Administration has announced a second “first-ever” in space exploration on Tuesday as tiny sprouts sprang up from cotton seeds taken on a spacecraft that made a successful maiden journey to the far side of the moon this month.
“It marks the first time any biological matter has grown on the Moon and is being seen as a significant step towards long-term space exploration,” the BBC reported. “Plants have been grown on the International Space Station before but never on the Moon.”
Xie Gengxin, dean of Institute of Advanced Technology at Chongqing University, and the chief designer of the experiment praised the achievement on the university’s blog.
“This (mission) has achieved the first biological experiment on the moon of human history, to sprout the first bud on the desolate moon. And with time moving on, it’ll be the first plant with green leaves on the moon,” Xie said.
Chinese scientists are also attempting to grow seeds from rapeseed, potato, and mouse-ear cress, and are trying to hatch fruit fly eggs. According to the university’s blog, the experiment will show how life develops in low gravity and strong radiation environments. It could even help provide a blueprint for growing resources during a future moon colony established by humans.
China wants to create a legacy of having a cutting-edge space program. Aside from Russia and the United States, it is the only other country to reach the moon.
The Chinese rover will explore the “dark side of the moon” and monitor its miniature biosphere, among other things. But China is already planning for its next project.
China announced on Monday that the Chang-e 5 lunar mission would launch at the end of 2019 with a goal to bring moon samples back to Earth, according to CNN.
The China National Space Administration also is planning its first mission to Mars in 2020.
Breitbart News reported on a Channel News Asia report that said the United States does not consider China’s space ambitions as purely benign:
While China has insisted its ambitions are purely peaceful, the U.S. Defense Department has accused it of pursuing activities aiming to prevent other nations from using space-based assets during a crisis.
Besides its civilian ambitions, China has tested anti-satellite missiles and the U.S. Congress has banned NASA from two-way cooperation with its Chinese counterpart over security concerns.
President Donald Trump has been reinvigorating the U.S. space program, including plans to send a man to Mars and creating a Space Force as the sixth branch of the military.
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