By Sam Wong
Goodbye, moon garden, we hardly knew ye. No sooner did we hear that cotton seeds had sprouted on China’s lunar lander than we learned the experiment had ended as night fell over the far side of the moon.
The plants were kept alive by sunlight on the moon’s surface, redirected into the canister where they were growing.
Now, two weeks after the Chang’e 4 probe’s historic landing, it has been plunged into darkness for the first time. The temperature outside could fall as low as −170℃.
The probe entered “sleep mode” on Sunday. “Life in the canister would not survive the lunar night,” Xie Gengxin, the designer of the experiment, told Xinhua news agency.
Nevertheless, the brief flourishing of China’s moon garden marks an important milestone in the road towards a lunar base.
To survive any length of time on the moon or Mars, humans will have to grow plants for food, and perhaps other materials like fuel and clothes.
China aren’t the only space players with ambitions for a lunar base. The European Space Agency has outlined a vision for a “moon village” where multiple organisations, including private companies, could come together to establish a community. NASA is also debating whether to send humans to the moon again, as preparation for a manned mission to Mars.
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