China's Space Agency Briefs Media on Chang'e-4 and Future Lunar Missions

19 January, 2019, 08:33 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
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China's Chang'e-4 probe has successfully germinated seeds on the dark side of the Moon in a miniature, artificial biosphere, providing hope for the future of sustainable, long-distance manned space travel. Xie Gengxin, the experiment's designer and the dean of the Institute of Advanced Technology at Chongqing University told the South China Morning Post.

"Experts are still discussing and verifying the feasibility of subsequent projects, but it's confirmed that there will be another three missions after Chang'e 5", Wu Yanhua, deputy head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), said at the press briefing.

The confirmation that cotton seeds have begun to sprout aboard China's Chang'e 4 lunar lander marks the first time biological matter has been grown on the Moon's surface.

Besides the ambitious plans announced by entrepreneurs including Elon Musk, the US National Aeronautics & Space Administration is pursuing a dual path of building a lunar orbital platform and returning astronauts to the moon in the mid-2020s, with the eventual aim to send humans to Mars.

The tasks of the Chang'e-4 include astronomical observation, surveying the moon's terrain and mineral makeup and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment of its far side.

Once Chang'e-4 touched down, the ground control center instructed the probe to water the seeds, Xinhua reported.

China wants to establish a lunar research base one day, possibly using 3D printing technology to build facilities, the Chinese space agency said Monday. Dubbed a moon surface micro-ecological circle, the 18-centimeter high aluminum alloy cylinder contains silkworm eggs and seeds for potatoes and rockcress (Arabidopsis thaliana, a flowering plant related to mustard and cabbage).

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The mission became the first to touch down on the surface of the far side of the moon earlier this month.

After Chang'e-4 landed on the far side of the moon on January 3, the ground control center instructed the probe to water the plants to start the growing process.

For years, crew members aboard the International Space Station have been tending to a "space garden", a chamber that has grown lettuce, radishes and other foods.

Xinhua said the probe had taken about 170 pictures so far which have been sent back to Earth.

Some space and global affairs analysts estimated that China's forays into lunar exploration could inspire a new space race of sorts.

The mission is part of China's ambitious push to explore the Moon's resources and its potential as a space base.

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