China launches plans for Moon missions, base, Mars probe

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Xie Gengxin, dean of Institute of Advanced Technology at Chongqing University and the chief designer of the experiment, said it was a world first.

China plans to launch the Chang'e-5 probe to the moon later this year, with three more in the offing, said Wu Yanhua, vice administrator of the China National Space Administration, at a briefing in Beijing on Monday.

According to the university's blog, the experiment will show how life develops in low gravity and strong radiation environments. Of these, only the cotton seeds have germinated, for reasons that have yet to be determined.

The ability to grow food on the moon would be important if humanity ever attempts to make good on the sci-fi dream of building a crewed lunar base.

Once Chang'e-4 touched down, the ground control center instructed the probe to water the seeds, Xinhua reported.

Cotton seeds carried by China's Chang'e-4 moon probe have become the first biological matter to grow on the moon.

As the BBC reports, one of the experiments China sent to the moon is a biosphere, which consists of a sealed 18-by-16cm container offering an Earth-like environment.

The People's Daily, the official state media for China's ruling Communist Party, tweeted a picture of the experiment, and claimed it is "humankind's first biological experiment on the Moon".

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China's ambitions for space and lunar exploration aren't limited to the current mission.

There is still a long way to go before a sustainable habitat could be developed on the lunar surface, but the experiments could be fairly considered to have started that project.

It is popularly called the "dark side" because it can not be seen from Earth and is relatively unknown, not because it lacks sunlight.

Image: The moon lander Chang'e 4.

"My firm belief is that we should integrate China into the International Space Station program".

The journey took more than 20 days, and scientists at the China National Space Administration spent two months doing final checks before sending it into space.

The complete list of six organisms chosen to go to the moon includes cotton, rapeseed, potato, rock cress, yeast, and fruit flies.

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