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Global Times US Edition - - CHINA -

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.

Blos­som­ing hopes

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

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