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Could the moon be our second home?

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Could the moon be our second home?

Scientists are trying to see if plant life can survive on the surface of the moon.

Scientists are trying to see if plant life can survive on the surface of the moon.

Nick Buiceag-Arama

Scientists are trying to see if plant life can survive on the surface of the moon.

Nick Buiceag-Arama

Nick Buiceag-Arama

Scientists are trying to see if plant life can survive on the surface of the moon.

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On January 2, China’s Chang’e-4 lander made history when it successfully grew a small plant onboard after landing on the far side of the moon. Sadly, right after the plant flourished, it withered and died.

The cottonseed sprouted inside an airtight canister onboard the lander of the Chang’e-4 probe. The canister contained all the necessary ingredients for the plant’s life: air, soil, and water. In addition, there was also rapeseeds, potato, Arabidopsis flowers, a sample of yeast, and fruit fly eggs that existed on the lander.

All these items were carefully chosen because each item plays a role in creating a miniature-ecosystem that consists of producers, consumers, and decomposers. The plants produced oxygen and food through photosynthesis, therefore, creating a habitable environment for the growth and survival of the fruit flies. The yeast was intended to provide and maintain livable carbon dioxide levels through decomposition or by processing waste from the fruit flies and dead plants.

In order for the cottonseed to sprout, there needs to exist a source of light. The design of the canister allowed light to reach the seed through a tube that redirected the natural light on the surface of the moon to the canister. The main reason why the cottonseed died was due to the night temperatures on the surface of the moon. The temperature could plunge as low as -170C.

However, Professor Xie Gengxin of Chongqing University and the chief designer of the experiment saw this coming. He stated, “Life in the canister would not survive the lunar night.” A lunar night lasts about two weeks, which does not favor the budding life of the cottonseed. In contrast to the lunar nights, lunar days are just as brutal. Because of the thin atmosphere on the moon, temperatures could reach up to 248 degrees Fahrenheit.

The heads of the experiment created this project to the test if life could be sustained in the long term on the moon. Hypothetically, the cottonseed could provide clothing; the potatoes could act as a food source, and the rapeseed could provide oil.

Professor Liu Hanlong, one of the experiment’s lead scientists, said, “We have given consideration to future survival in space. Learning about these plants’ growth in a low-gravity environment would allow us to lay the foundation for our future establishment of space base.”

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Could the moon be our second home?