China's moon cotton experiment ends in freezing lunar night


A cotton seedling that sprouted on the moon is left to die as China's historic lunar lander holds a freezing night-time nap that will last as long as two ground weeks, scientists said.

The Chinese space agency announced earlier this week that the seed germinated within a special canister aboard the Chang & E4 probe, after the January 3 spacecraft made the first ever landing on the far side of the moon.

The Mini Biosphere – operated for over 212 hours – was closed as planned on Saturday, said Chongqing University, which designed the experiment.

The lander also brought potato and Arabidopsy seeds – a plant of the mustard family – as well as fruit and yeast eggs.

Temperatures inside the ecosystem are expected to plunge below the minus 52 degrees Celsius (minus 61.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and the organisms will be "in a frozen state", the university said in a statement on Tuesday.

The experiment ended hours before Chang & # 39; entering the "sleep mode" on Sunday as the first lunar night fell since the probe's landing. Temperatures are about minus 170 degrees Celsius (minus 274 degrees Fahrenheit).

A longer night lasts for about two weeks, after the probe is expected to wake up, the statement said.

"Life in the canister won't survive the longer night," she Gengxin, who led the design of the experiment, told the official Xinhua news agency.

Once the temperatures start to rise next month, the organizers will be allowed to "slowly decompose" in the permanently sealed canister.

Changing E-4 is also equipped with instruments developed by scientists from Sweden, Germany and China to study the lunar environment, cosmic radiation and solar-wind interaction with the surface of the moon.

The long-awaited rover dubbed Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit), which will perform experiments in the Won Carmine Crater.

China's space agency said it was planning four more lunar missions, confirming the launch of a probe by the end of the year to bring back samples of the moon.

Beijing wants to set up a lunar research base one day, possibly using 3D printing technology to build facilities, the agency said Monday.

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