By, Rafi Letzter Editor

Posted on 07 January 2019

Is the moon really "a hard mistress?" (Composite image)
(World Perspectives / Getty Images)

The Chinese LG Chang & # 39; e-4 landed on the other side of the moon (January 3, Beijing time, January 2 in the United States), and there are living beings on board.

A small "box" in the lander contains seeds of potatoes and buttercups (Arabidopsis thaliana, a flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard, as well as a model organism for plant biology), as well as silkworm eggs. The idea, according to one report In The Telegraph earlier this year, plants will support silkworms with oxygen, and silkworms will provide plants with the carbon dioxide and nutrients they need through their waste. Researchers will carefully monitor the plants to see if they are successful in photosynthesis and if they grow and bloom in the lunar environment.

"We want to study seed respiration and photosynthesis on the moon," said Xie Gengxin, chief designer of the experiment, Xinhua, a Chinese news agency.[[[[See spectacular images of the lunar mission in 3D (Photos)]

The experience of the "biosphere" is the fruit of a collaboration between 28 Chinese universities, led by the University of Chongqing (southwest China), according to Xinhua. The experiment, which is hidden in a 1.4-liter (0.8-liter) aluminum alloy cylinder, weighs about 7 pounds. (3 kilograms) and includes dirt, nutrients and water. Sunlight will filter into the container through a "tube" and small cameras will monitor the small environment. This data will be sent back to Earth using the relay system complex set up by China to communicate with an experience that does not have a direct view of the Earth.

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"Why potato and Arabidopsis? Because the growth period of Arabidopsis is short and convenient to observe. And the potato could become an important source of food for future space travelers, "said Liu Hanlong, senior director of experience and vice president of Chongqing University, reported by Xinhua.Our experience could help accumulate knowledge for the construction of a long-term lunar residence on the moon. "

Rockcress has already been grown in space, including during an experiment on the International Space Station that showed that the leaves of the plants seemed go up and down as they detected the gravity of the moon. But if the flowering plant is going to bloom in the environment on the other side of the moon remains an open question.

For the moment, however, it means that there is life in at least one other place in the solar system (even if it's only because we put it there).

Originally published on Science live.