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The First Plant to Grow on Moon is dead

Abha Toppo
Abha Toppo

The budding cotton seed, which was hailed as the first plant to ever grow on the Moon, has died. China’s state owned press agency, Xinhua announced the sad news just hours after celebrating the plant’s successful germination. It said, “The experiment has ended now”.

Perhaps it is not that astonishing, considering, the image of the plant tweeted by - People's Daily, the official daily of China's Communist Party, was very hard to spot.

Items like Cotton, potato, rape, rockseed, fruit fly eggs and yeast were sent to the space on the Chang’e probe inside a container. Researchers working for the China National Space Agency spacecraft sought to create a self-sustaining mini biosphere to check if life could survive on the far side of the Moon.

Even though the cotton seedling was nourished with water, natural sunlight, and in fact, a temperature regulator - it proved no match for the Moon's freezing temperatures that can fall as low as -170 degrees C on the arid satellite. The Chang’e lander was power-driven down on ‘sleep mode’ 4 days back to prepare for the Moon’s lunar night, a stage that lasts for 14 days.

Chief designer of the experiment and a professor at Chongqing University, Xie Gengxin explained that “Life in the container would not sustain the lunar night. We had no such know-how before. And we could not simulate the lunar atmosphere, like microgravity and cosmic radiation, on the Earth”.

The trial was initially touted as a study into the possible ways astronauts might be able to survive in space during long missions. Being able to cultivate cotton could help clothe space explorers, told Liu Hanglong, a lecturer at the school of civil engineering at Chongqing University. He is leading the bio-experiment.

Now, with the failure of the experiment scientists are changing their tune. Xie said it was basically “aimed at stimulating young people's eagerness for space exploration and popularizing science such as photosynthesis.”

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