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China Successfully Sprouted a Cotton Seed on the Moon
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China has successfully sprouted a cotton seed on the so-called dark side of the moon, and they hope to grow potatoes there within the next 100 days. Using a special airtight container, which cost upwards of $1 million, China delivered cotton seeds, silkworm eggs and seeds for cress and potatoes, as well.
Researchers call the container a “moon surface micro-ecological circle” and hope that the plants will root and sprout within the container. If they do, eventually, they’ll lead to the first ever flower grown on the moon. Additionally, researchers hope the silkworm eggs will hatch into moths.
There’s just one problem: temperatures on the moon’s surface can reach up to 202 degrees F during the day and drop to –148 degrees F at night – and that’s just on the surface. In craters and valleys, and on peaks, the temperatures can be much more extreme. That’s because the moon has no atmosphere to hold in heat at night or prevent it from increasing so much during the day (and an atmosphere is what protects Earth from the same extremes).
The canister is located in the Von Karman Crater, where China’s Chang’e-4 landed on January 2. The mission is twofold; researchers are also studying unique moon rocks with unusual chemistry, which they believe will help us learn more about the moon’s past. Although the crater is located on the “dark side of the moon,” the reality is that there is no dark side – each side gets exposed to sunlight throughout a lunar day, which is 29 Earth days long. We always see the same side of the moon, but the other side gets plenty of light (just as much as our side does, in fact).
Even if the plants do flower, they won’t be the first in space – two years ago, NASA shared photographs of a zinnia in bloom on the International Space Station, which orbits about 300 kilometers above Earth.
The Chinese scientist in charge of the plant experiment, Professor Xie Gengxin, says that if the experiment is successful, it could lay the foundation for humans to live in outer space.
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