On the Far Side of the Moon, Cotton Grows

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This mission has launched China into space race.

On 3 January, China made history when it landed the first spacecraft on the far side of the Moon.

Yutu-2, China's lunar rover, leaves wheel marks as it moves away from the lander that touched down on the far side of the Moon. Keeping the temps within an acceptable range is one of the most hard parts of the experiment, as the moon swings from a freezing -173 C to 100 C or above. Then, when the lander reached the moon's surface, ground control instructed the mini-biosphere to water the plants and expose them to natural light.

Inside are cotton, arabidopsis - a small, flowering plant of the mustard family - and potato seeds, as well as fruit-fly eggs and yeast.

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Until this experiment, the researchers said they weren't sure it was possible to grow plants in a low gravity environment.

They hope to see the results towards the end of a 100-day experimental period, according to the country's space agency. The temperature can range from -173C to 100C.

"This is the first time humans have done biological growth experiments on the lunar surface", said Xie Gengxin, who led the design of the experiment. The plants release oxygen and provide food for the fruit flies, while the yeast converts the oxygen into carbon dioxide for the plants, among other processes. We could probably make some nice sweaters from moon-grown cotton.

According to Fred Watson of the Australian Astronomical Observatory, the development represented a step in the right direction.

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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations shared its glee on Twitter, saying, "China's moon mission success means that astronauts could potentially harvest their own food in space!"

Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the national space agency, speaks during a press conference held in Beijing, China, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019.

Cotton seeds carried by China's Chang'e-4 moon probe have become the first biological matter to grow on the moon. It's the first time - as far as we know - that a plant has germinated on a Solar System object other than Earth.

This Apollo 15 image captures the planned landing locale of China's Chang's 5 lunar sample-return mission - the Mons Rümker region in the northern part of Oceanus Procellarum.

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