By Dan Nosowitz
You'd think if you just supply plants with the right temperature, some sunshine and some water, you could farm pretty much anywhere—even the moon.
It turns out moon-farming is much more complicated than that, with hazards coming in from all sides. Yet despite all the challenges, representatives working on the Chinese moon lander Chang'e-4 announced this week that they had successfully sprouted a plant on the moon for the first time ever.
The moon gets plenty of sunlight, at least in some areas, but without the protection of an atmosphere like Earth's, that sunlight does more harm than good, at least to plants. Cosmic radiation and solar flares can fry a plant before it has a chance to grow. That's why the University of Arizona's moon-farm simulator, at the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, grows plants underground, with only artificial lighting.
Chang'e-4's mission included an attempt at a self-contained biosystem, with seeds, nutrients, water, yeast and fruit fly eggs, to be composed into a hydroponic circulation setup. According to Nature, which spoke to the chief designer of the experiment, the project succeeded in sprouting cotton plants, with future plans for both potatoes and Arabidopsis. (The latter is a relative of kale that's commonly used for experiments.) The China National Space Administration posted pictures of the sprouting cotton, dated January 7th, last week.
According to Inkstone News, a publication dedicated to China-focused stories, the experiment actually ended when the plants died, during a 12-day-long lunar night that shortly followed the cotton's sprouting. Inkstone says that the Chang'e-4 hadn't brought enough power to maintain the rigid temperature controls for long.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
The move comes after regional authorities declared a state of emergency over the weekend after sightings of more than 50 bears in the town of Belushya Guba since December.
This year's letter from Bill and Melinda Gates focused on nine things that surprised them. For the Microsoft-cofounder, one thing he was surprised to learn was the massive amount of new buildings the planet should expect in the coming decades due to urban population growth.
"The number of buildings in the world is going to double by 2060. It's like we're going to build a new New York City every month for the next 40 years," he said.
By Shana Udvardy
After a dearth of action on climate change and a record year of extreme events in 2017, the inclusion of climate change policies within the annual legislation Congress considers to outline its defense spending priorities (the National Defense Authorization Act) for fiscal year 2018 was welcome progress. House and Senate leaders pushed to include language that mandated that the Department of Defense (DoD) incorporate climate change in their facility planning (see more on what this section of the bill does here and here) as well as issue a report on the impacts of climate change on military installations. Unfortunately, what DoD produced fell far short of what was mandated.
Trump is losing his rallying cry to save coal. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) voted on Thursday to retire two coal-fired power plants in the next few years despite a plea from the president to keep one of the plants open.
Earlier this week, the president posted an oddly specific tweet that urged the government-owned utility to save the 49-year-old Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky. It so happens that the facility burns coal supplied by Murray Energy Corporation, whose CEO is Robert Murray, is a major Trump donor.