China intends to grow potatoes on the dark side of the moon by the end of the year

The Chinese lunar rover which is supposed to land on the dark side of the moon by the end of the year. Credit: CASC/China Ministry of DefenseThe moon has been neglected for far too long, and China seems keen on moving fast to cover all the lost lunar ground. The nation’s ambitious space program, among other things, is set on achieving several important milestones. A trifecta, consisting of a lunar probe, lander, and rover, will be deployed to the moon’s orbit and surface respectively. This will be the first time a man-made contraption makes a soft landing on the far or dark side of the moon, a site of renewed interest for many scientists. The mission will also carry insects and plants, including potatoes, that will reportedly form a mini-ecosystem on the moon whose response will teach us valuable lessons in preparations for a manned outpost or even a colony. China plans to live stream the plants’ growth and development.

“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,” Zhang Yuanxun, chief designer of the lunar habitat, told the Chongqing Morning Post.

Last year, researchers grew potatoes in Mars-like conditions. Pulling the same stunt completely outside of Earth will be a whole different challenge which will be very intriguing to follow. Full report on ZME Science