On rs Flowe n Moo the
Ar n u l ed or pl ex un Ch in ts ang en ’e4 rim prob eto carry out expe
China’s Chang’e-4 lunar probe is expected to accomplish feats that are unprecedented in space history after it launches later this year, such as touching down softly on the far side of the Moon and taking the first flowers to blossom on the lifeless lunar surface.
The probe will carry a tin containing seeds of potato and arabidopsis, a small plant related to cabbage and mustard, and probably some silkworm eggs to conduct the first biological experiment on the Moon.
The “lunar mini biosphere” experiment was designed by 28 Chinese universities led by Southwest China’s Chongqing University, according to a conference on scientific and technological innovation of Chongqing Municipality.
Researchers hope the seeds will blossom on the Moon, with the process captured on camera and transmitted to Earth.
Although astronauts have cultivated plants on the International Space Station, and rice and arabidopsis were grown in China’s Tiangong-2 space lab, those experiments were conducted in low-Earth orbit, at an altitude of about 400 kilometers. The environment on the Moon, 380,000 kilometers from the Earth, is more complicated.
Liu Hanlong, chief director of the experiment and vice president of Chongqing University, said that as the Moon has no atmosphere, its temperature ranges from below minus 100 C to above 100 C.
“We have to keep the temperature in the ‘mini biosphere’ within a range of 1 to 30 degrees, and properly control the humidity and nutrition. We will use a tube to direct the natural light on the surface of Moon into the tin to make the plants grow,” said Xie Gengxin, chief designer of the experiment. “We want to study the respiration of the seeds and the photosynthesis on the Moon,” said Liu. “Why potato and arabidopsis? Because the growth period of arabidopsis is short and convenient to observe. And potatoes could become a major source of food for future space travelers,” said Liu. “Our experiment might help accumulate knowledge for building a lunar base and longterm residence on the Moon.”
The far side
With its special environment and complex geological history, the far side of the Moon is a hot spot for scientific and space exploration.
However, landing and roving there requires a relay satellite to transmit signals.
It has been reported that China plans to send a relay satellite for Chang’e-4 to the halo orbit of the Earth-Moon Lagrange Point L2 in