The First Cotton Seed Has Sprouted On The Moon

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Before China had finished packing up its Chang'e 4 lunar lander to be blasted off on a never-before-accomplished journey to the far side of the moon, scientists had slipped in a small tank holding plant seeds.

The First Cotton Seed Has Sprouted On The Moon

Before China had finished packing up its Chang'e 4 lunar lander to be blasted off on a never-before-accomplished journey to the far side of the moon, scientists had slipped in a small tank holding plant seeds. The team has now announced that a cotton seed has sprouted.


This makes it the first truly otherworldly plant in history. Astronauts onboard the International Space Station often tend plants to study how growth changes in microgravity and plants and seeds have orbited Earth on and off throughout spaceflight history. However, the closest that terrestrial vegetation has come to the moon before was in 1971 when Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa carried tree seeds to orbit the moon with him. Many of those seeds were later planted back on Earth, becoming "Moon Trees."


Along with cotton, the Chinese moon capsule includes seeds to grow potatoes, as well as a common lab plant called Arabidopsis, neither of which have sprouted yet. And even the cotton plant looks pretty peaky compared to seedlings in a control setup the scientists established on Earth.


The First Cotton Seed Has Sprouted On The Moon

Chinese scientists released this image of a cotton plant germinating in its tank on the moon aboard the Chang'e 4 lander. The photograph was taken Jan. 7, 2019. Credit: Chongqing University


The First Cotton Seed Has Sprouted On The Moon

An image of the Chinese biology experimental capsule now on the far side of the moon aboard the Chang'e 4 lander. Credit: Chongqing University


The capsule and its seeds are stored on the Chang'e 4 lander, that is perched inside Von Kármán Crater on the far side of the moon. The lander is accompanied by the Yutu 2 rover, that has left its grounded counterpart to explore the neighborhood. Both robots are now experiencing their first long, cold night on the moon when daytime and nighttime each last about two Earth weeks.


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Thinking Humanity: The First Cotton Seed Has Sprouted On The Moon
The First Cotton Seed Has Sprouted On The Moon
Before China had finished packing up its Chang'e 4 lunar lander to be blasted off on a never-before-accomplished journey to the far side of the moon, scientists had slipped in a small tank holding plant seeds.
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