RIP 2019-2019: The first plant to grow on the Moon? Yeah, it's dead already, Chinese admit

The poor cotton seedling froze to death as temperatures plunged during the lunar night


The budding cotton seed hailed as the first plant to ever grow on the Moon, has, erm, died.

Xinhua, China’s state owned press agency, announced the unfortunate news merely hours after celebrating the plant’s successful germination. “The experiment has ended,” it said.

Maybe it's not that surprising, considering, the picture of the plant tweeted by the People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's Communist Party, was very difficult to spot.

Cotton, rapeseed, potato, rockseed, yeast and fruit fly eggs were sent to space on the Chang’e probe inside a canister. Scientists working for the China National Space Agency spacecraft wanted to create a self-sustaining mini biosphere to see if life could survive on the far side of the Moon.

moon_earth

China's really cotton'd on to this whole Moon exploration thing: First seed sprouts in lunar lander biosphere

READ MORE

Although the cotton seedling was nurtured with water, natural sunlight, and, apparently, a temperature regulator, it proved no match for the Moon's frigid temperatures, which can drop as low as -170 degrees Celsius (-274 degrees in Freedom units) on the arid satellite. Last week, the Chang’e lander was powered down onto “sleep mode” on Sunday to prepare for the Moon’s lunar night, a phase that lasts 14 days.

“Life in the canister would not survive the lunar night. We had no such experience before. And we could not simulate the lunar environment, such as microgravity and cosmic radiation, on Earth,” explained Xie Gengxin, chief designer of the experiment and a professor at Chongqing University.

The experiment was originally touted as a study into the potential ways astronauts might be able to live in space during long missions. Being able to grow cotton could help clothe space explorers, Liu Hanglong, a professor at the school of civil engineering at Chongqing University, who is leading the bio-experiment, previously told the South China Morning Post.

Since the failure of the experiment, however, the scientists have changed their tune. Now, Xie said it, was actually “aimed at inspiring young people's enthusiasm for space exploration, and popularizing science such as photosynthesis.” ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Liftoff at last for South Korean space program
    Satellite-deploying rocket finally launches – after a few setbacks

    South Korea's Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) yesterday succeeded in its endeavor to send the home-grown Nuri launcher into space, then place a working satellite in orbit.

    The launch was scheduled for earlier in June but was delayed by weather and then again by an anomaly in a first-stage oxidizer tank. Its October 2021 launch failed to deploy a dummy satellite, thanks to similar oxidizer tank problems that caused internal damage.

    South Korea was late to enter the space race due to a Cold War-era agreement with the US, which prohibited it developing a space program. That agreement was set aside and yesterday's launch is the culmination of more than a decade of development. The flight puts South Korea in a select group of nations that have demonstrated the capability to build and launch domestically designed and built orbital-class rockets.

    Continue reading
  • AWS sent edgy appliance to the ISS and it worked – just like all the other computers up there
    Congrats, AWS, you’ve boldly gone where the Raspberry Pi has already been

    Amazon Web Services has proudly revealed that the first completely private expedition to the International Space Station carried one of its Snowcone storage appliances, and that the device worked as advertised.

    The Snowcone is a rugged shoebox-sized unit packed full of disk drives – specifically 14 terabytes of solid-state disk – a pair of VCPUs and 4GB of RAM. The latter two components mean the Snowcone can run either EC2 instances or apps written with AWS’s Greengrass IoT product. In either case, the idea is that you take a Snowcone into out-of-the-way places where connectivity is limited, collect data in situ and do some pre-processing on location. Once you return to a location where bandwidth is plentiful, it's assumed you'll upload the contents of a Snowcone into AWS and do real work on it there.

    Continue reading
  • NASA's Psyche mission: 2022 launch is off after software arrives late
    Launch window slides into 2023 or 2024 for asteroid-probing project

    Sadly for NASA's mission to take samples from the asteroid Psyche, software problems mean the spacecraft is going to miss its 2022 launch window.

    The US space agency made the announcement on Friday: "Due to the late delivery of the spacecraft's flight software and testing equipment, NASA does not have sufficient time to complete the testing needed ahead of its remaining launch period this year, which ends on October 11."

    While it appears the software and testbeds are now working, there just isn't enough time to get everything done before a SpaceX Falcon Heavy sends the spacecraft to study a metallic-rich asteroid of the same name.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022