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While plants and flowers have grown on the International Space Station earlier too, this is the first time a seed sprouted on the Moon. Dubbed a moon surface micro-ecological circle, the 18-centimeter high aluminum alloy cylinder contains silkworm eggs and seeds for potatoes and rockcress (Arabidopsis thaliana, a flowering plant related to mustard and cabbage).

Professor Xie Gengxin, the experiment's chief designer, told the South China Morning Post researchers had given "consideration to future survival in space". Once on the Moon's far side, ground control commanded the lander to water the seeds. The mission's architects say the experiments could help lay a foundation for one day establishing a lunar base.

The lunar mini biosphere experiment on the lander is created to test photosynthesis and respiration - processes in living organisms that result in the production of energy.

On January 3, China's robotic spacecraft Chang'e-4 landed on the far side of the moon, a first in the human history of space exploration.

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Along with a number of sophisticated scientific instruments, the mission's lunar lander carried a sealed container, the lunar mini biosphere experiment. The greatest challenge according to Chinese scientists is the constant weather changes on the moon. The plants release oxygen and provide food for the fruit flies, while the yeast converts the oxygen into carbon dioxide for the plants, among other processes. For example, potatoes serve as a good source and can make rapeseed oil which is similar to canola oil. By having a supply base on the moon, space travel to Mars and beyond could become easier.

According to Fred Watson of the Australian Astronomical Observatory, the development represented a step in the right direction.

Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the national space agency, speaks during a press conference held in Beijing, China, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. Scientists from Sweden, Germany and China are involved in the making of the instruments required for Chang'e 4 to study the lunar environment, cosmic radiation and interaction between solar wind and the moon's surface.

It is the first time a soft landing has been performed on the Moon's far side - also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown - due to challenges relaying signals.


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