Quantcast

China Says It Has Sprouted Plants on the Moon

Science
David Willacy / EyeEm / Getty Images

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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A pregnant woman works out in front of the skyline of London. SHansche / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Air pollution particles that a pregnant woman inhales have the potential to travel through the lungs and breach the fetal side of the placenta, indicating that unborn babies are exposed to black carbon from motor vehicles and fuel burning, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.

Read More Show Less

Teen activist Greta Thunberg delivered a talking-to to members of Congress Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Climate Change Task Force after politicians praised her and other youth activists for their efforts and asked their advice on how to fight climate change.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Ten feet of water flooded 20 percent of this Minot, North Dakota neighborhood in June 2011. DVIDSHUB / CC BY 2.0

By Jared Brey

When Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle last October, it killed at least 43 people, caused an estimated $25 billion in damage and destroyed thousands of homes.

Read More Show Less
A protestor holds up her hand covered with fake oil during a demonstration on the U.C. Berkeley campus in May 2010. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The University of California system will dump all of its investments from fossil fuels, as the Associated Press reported. The university system controls over $84 billion between its pension fund and its endowment. However, the announcement about its investments is not aimed to please activists.

Read More Show Less
Forest fire continues to blaze in Indonesesia on Sept. 18. WAHYUDI / AFP / Getty Images

Nearly 200 people have been arrested in Indonesia over their possible connections to the massive wildfires raging in the nation's forest, officials said this week.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

World leaders have a formidable task: setting a course to save our future. The extreme weather made more frequent and severe by climate change is here. This spring, devastating cyclones impacted 3 million people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Record heatwaves are hitting Europe and other regions — this July was the hottest month in modern record globally. Much of India is again suffering severe drought.

Read More Show Less
Covering Climate Now / YouTube screenshot

By Mark Hertsgaard

The United Nations Secretary General says that he is counting on public pressure to compel governments to take much stronger action against what he calls the climate change "emergency."

Read More Show Less
A new rule that ends limits for hog slaughtering speeds could increase animal suffering, advocates warn. kickers / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Trump's U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finalized a new hog slaughtering rule Tuesday that environmental and food safety advocates warn could harm animals, plant workers and public health, Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less