China has grown the first plant on the Moon

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Home is where your cotton seed is!

China National Space Administration recently reported that seeds aboard the Chang’e-4 moon lander have sprouted, making them the first plants to be grown on the Moon.

And although the plants are already dead (R.I.P.), this milestone paves the way for China’s plans to create an eventual base on the Moon. On Jan. 3, Chang’e-4 became the first mission to touch down on the far side of the Moon (the side that faces away from Earth). In the next few decades, the goal is to add at least three more rovers and eventually astronauts, too!

So why is it taking so long to build a base on the Moon?

There are two main hurdles in the way of humans colonizing the Moon: its environment is very different than Earth, and we don’t know what space does to the human body for extended periods of time.

But luckily, promising results have come from Chinese experiments, among others. In May 2018, Chinese student volunteers spent 370 days living in a simulated lunar module to study how plants and humans are impacted by living in an artificial and enclosed space for a long period of time. In addition, the sprouting of seeds from the Chang’e-4 lander shows the possibility of food and plants being sustained somewhere other than Earth!

More time is needed to study the long-term effects of plants and humans in space. And of course, we also still need to keep searching for accessible water. But the foundation is there!

Interested in more space stories like this one? Catch a show this weekend in LSC's Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, the biggest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere. Click here to see what's playing and get showtimes.

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