China will attempt to grow plants, insects on Moon's far side

Goal is establishment of a simple lunar ecosystem.
By Laurel Kornfeld | Jan 05, 2018
China's ambitious space program seeks to land two probes on the Moon's far side in 2018, the second of which will attempt to grow plants and insects there.

To date, there have been no landings on the Moon's far side, which permanently faces away from the Earth due to the Moon being tidally locked to our planet.

The first of the two Chang'e 4 missions will launch on a Long March 4C rocket in June and will deliver a 937-pound (425-kg) relay satellite and station, which will be placed approximately 37,282 miles (60,000 km) behind the Moon to enable communications between Earth and the landers on the far side.

When the communications system is functional, the satellite will provide guidance as to the best location site for the second far side landing.

That mission will carry a lander, rover, and aluminum container filled with potatoes, seeds of a biennial herb genus known as arabidopsis, and silkworm eggs.

Equipped with a layer of insulation to protect the contents from extreme lunar temperatures, the container, which will monitor the growth processes of the three life forms, will also have light pipes powered by high-energy density batteries that will act as a constant energy source.

"The container will send potatoes, arabidopsis seeds, and silkworm eggs to the surface of the Moon. The eggs will hatch into silkworms, which can produce carbon dioxide, while the potatoes and seeds emit oxygen through photosynthesis. Together, they can establish a simple ecosystem on the Moon," explained container designer Zhang Yuanxun.

Designed by scientists and engineers at Chongqing University and 28 other Chinese universities, the container has more than 100 components, is 3.14 inches (8 centimeters) long, and weighs 6.7 pounds (3 kilograms).

Also on board the second lander will be equipment to study the geology of the landing site.

A third lunar probe, Chang'e 5, is being developed to collect lunar samples and return them to Earth.




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