China's cotton plants sprout on moon

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This is the first plant shoot that grows on the moon after experiencing severe environmental tests such as low gravity, strong radiation and high temperature.

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

The Chang'e 4 lander - which landed on the lunar surface on January 3 - aims to explore the geology of the far side of the moon which is invisible from the earth.

While human beings have grown plants in space before, they've never attempted to grown one on the moon. Professor Liu Hanlong, head of the experiment, stated in the seed sprout announcement, "We have given consideration to future survival in space".

Chinese officials have also announced plans to build 3D-print houses on the moon, as part of Beijing's long-term mission to establish a permanent lunar base.

Such a base would likely rely on seeds being grown on the moon by astronauts, reducing the need for costly resupplies.

This handout photograph taken on January 12, 2019 and received from Chongqing University on January 15 shows a cotton sprout (left) growing in an experiment inside the Chang'e-4 moon probe on the far side of the moon. The image was published on the People's Daily, China twitter feed, which is run by the country's state-owned media group.

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On Monday, Chinese space scientists also said China has exchanged landing data with Nasa.

The mission, titled Chang'e 4, is meant to accomplish a range of tasks, including conducting the first lunar low-frequency radio astronomy experiment and exploring whether there is water at the moon's poles.

Chang'e 4 was launched atop a Long March 3B rocket in early December.

Xie Gengxin, dean of Institute of Advanced Technology at Chongqing University and the chief designer of the experiment, said it was a world first. As well as being "humankind's first biological experiment on the moon", it's an encouraging development for our ambition to send humans to Mars.

Chang'e 5 will lay the groundwork for further probes to be sent to the moon's south pole and possibly to return samples from the far side of the moon, Wu said.

With the far side's lunar night having started, the six living things are frozen at -52 C. They will decompose into organic matter as the temperature rises during the next lunar day and remain inside the can forever.

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