China grows the first seed on the Moon

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

Before China finished packing up its Chang'e 4 lunar lander to be blasted off on a never-before-accomplished journey to the far side of the moon, scientists slipped in a small tank holding plant seeds.

Liu Hanlong, who is leading the experiment, said Tuesday that potato seeds and rapeseeds also had sprouted, according to the South China Morning Post.

Professor Xie Gengxin, the experiment's chief designer, said other organisms in the canister included seeds of potato, arabidopsis and oilseed rape, along with yeast and fruit fly eggs. The ability of plants to grow in space is seen as a crucial element for long-term space missions and for establishing human outposts in the solar system like Mars. The crops will try to form a mini biosphere - an artificial, self-sustaining environment. This is the first plant shoot that grows on the moon after experiencing severe environmental tests such as low gravity, strong radiation and high temperature.

It successfully deployed the Jade Rabbit 2 rover and has now once again made history by sprouting the first seedling on the moon.

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China has made space exploration a top priority in recent years, as it races to catch up with Russian Federation and the U.S. and become a major space power by 2030.

According to Wu, Chang'e 6 will be on a mission to collect samples from the Moon's South pole and later missions will be created to conduct surveys of the surrounding area. He said that the cotton and rapeseed were chosen because they could provide the astronauts with the raw material needed to produce clothing and oil.

Wu also revealed that China will send a probe to Mars around 2020. The BBC notes that there are already "nearly 100 bags of human waste on the Moon left behind by the Apollo astronauts".

The pioneering landing highlights China's ambitions to rival the US, Russia and Europe in space through manned flights and the planned construction of a permanent space station.

The moon Sunday night will be the first in a series of three full supermoons, which is when a full or new moon is at or near its closest approach to earth in its orbit, or perigee, according to EarthSky.

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