China to collect samples from moon this year

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En route, the craft was carrying cotton, rape, potato, arabidopsis (rock cress) seeds, as well as fruit fly eggs and yeast, kept in an artificial dormant state in a 7-inch-tall sealed container with air, water, and soil.

China Daily tweeted: "The latest photo shows a cotton seed brought to the moon by China's Chang'e 4 probe has sprouted".

A small green shoot is growing on the moon in an out-of-this-world first after a cotton seed germinated on board a Chinese lunar lander, scientists said today.

Incidentally, the Chang'e 4 lander first touched down on the far side of the Moon earlier this month, an impressive achievement in and of itself.

In the biosphere, the plants are shielded from harmful radiation, and the temperature is maintained artificially, since the moon lacks a sufficient atmosphere to block radiation from space or to regulate heat.

It is the first time any biological matter has been grown on the celestial body.

The landing is a milestone for China's fledgling space program, marking the first time that China has completed a significant space mission that was not already performed previously by the USA or Russian Federation.

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Fred Watson, Australian Astronomical Observatory's astronomer-at-large was also encouraged by the progress.

"It suggests that there might not be insurmountable problems for astronauts in future trying to grow their own crops on the moon in a controlled environment".

"I think there's certainly a great deal of interest in using the moon as a staging post, particularly for flights to Mars, because it's relatively near the Earth".

Pictures released by the China National Space Administration released pictures showing a rocky surface with the jagged edge of craters in the background, posing a challenge for controllers in plotting the rover's travels, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

They only began growing once ground control centre sent a command to the probe to water the seeds. A tube directed natural light on the surface of the Moon into the canister to allow the plants to grow.

China, in turn, shared the time and coordinates of Chang'e 4′s scheduled landing, Wu told reporters during a briefing on the lunar mission.

Images sent back by the probe show a cotton plant has grown well, but so far none of the other plants had sprouted, the university said.

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