Cotton plant sprouts on Moon

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Seeds have sprouted on the Moon for the first time - in a mini biosphere experiment on China's Chang'e-4 lander.

A team led by Chinese scientists from Chongqing University in southwest of China sent seeds of cotton, rape, potato and Arabidopsis, as well as fruit fly eggs and some yeast, according to Xinhua news agency.

On January 3, a lunar lander called Chang'e-4 touched down on the moon, deploying a rover to explore lunar terrain.

Charles Cockell, a professor of astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, told Newsweek that the latest achievement is "very significant" because it shows a proof of concept for growing plants 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".

There once was a miniature garden growing on the far side of the moon.

"The plants would generate oxygen and food for other living things to "consume".

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Tests carried out by future missions could lay the groundwork for building on the moon's surface, by testing technologies like 3D printing or the use of moon soil in construction, he said.

That said, it isn't the first time a plant has germinated outside of Earth.

The seeds began growing once they received water from the probe via a command from a ground control centre.

Xie said the cotton could eventually be used to make clothing, the potatoes could feed astronauts, and the rapeseed could produce oil, the South China Morning Post reported. Three successive missions will further explore the barren surface of the moon and test equipment for an global lunar research base. The probe has taken 170 pictures.

Chinese scientists describe the mini biosphere as an "outer space ecosystem experiment" that will "reveal the growth and development status of plants and animals under the low gravity, strong radiation and natural lighting conditions of the moon". Tests on Earth show that viable, self-sustaining biospheres are exceptionally hard to build and maintain. The Chinese effort is commendable, and the data gleaned from this project will be of significant value.

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