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article imageSpace 2018: China mission will create miniature ecosystem on Moon

By Karen Graham     Jan 6, 2018 in Science
Beijing - If all goes according to plan, China may become a new world leader in Lunar exploration. China's space program is preparing to launch a lunar probe, lander, and rover in the first half of 2018, hopefully making a landing on the far side of the Moon.
Last week, Digital Journal featured India's upcoming launch of the Chandrayaan 2, scheduled for March, using a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV Mk II) which includes a lunar orbiter, lander, and rover, all made in India. It has been four years since any country attempted a lunar mission. In 2013, China successfully landed the unmanned ‘Yutu’ rover for a month-long walk.
The U.S. is the only country that can lay claim to actually putting a human on the Moon, and that feat last occurred in 1972, and that's a long time ago. Now, not only India but China is itching to be the first to get mankind back to the lunar surface, and China's space program is planning on achieving several important milestones when they launch this year.
The Chandrayaan-1 launcher  ISRO s PSLV-C11  is an upgraded version of the Polar Satellite Launch Ve...
The Chandrayaan-1 launcher, ISRO's PSLV-C11, is an upgraded version of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). It is visible here on the launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India.
ISRO/ESA
This year, the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP), otherwise known as the Chang’e Program, plans to launch the Chang’e 4 Mission. The program has previously sent two orbiters and one lander to the moon. The Chang'e 4 lander was a backup to the Chang'e 3 mission, so it will have the same basic structure
First landing on far side of Moon
But that is where the similarities will end. The mission is a trifecta, of sorts, consisting of a lunar probe, lander, and rover. They will be deployed to the Moon’s orbit and surface respectively. But there is more - This will be the first time any nation has attempted a soft-landing on the far side of the Moon.
The Yutu rover rolled onto the lunar surface on 14 December at 20:35 UT (15 December 04:35 a.m. BJST...
The Yutu rover rolled onto the lunar surface on 14 December at 20:35 UT (15 December 04:35 a.m. BJST).
NASA
The far side of the Moon is sometimes called the dark side of the Moon. This is because it is the hemisphere of the Moon that always faces away from Earth. And even though both sides of the Moon experience two-weeks of sunlight followed by two weeks of night, the far side is sometimes called the "dark side of the Moon," with "dark" meaning "unseen" rather than lack of light.
It wasn't until October 7, 1959, that we were able to view fairly good images of the far side of the Moon. The Soviet probe Luna 3 took the first photographs of the lunar far side, eighteen of them resolvable, covering one-third of the surface invisible from the Earth. So we sort of know what it looks like.
The lunar farside as never seen before! LROC WAC orthographic projection centered at 180° longitude...
The lunar farside as never seen before! LROC WAC orthographic projection centered at 180° longitude, 0° latitude. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University.
NASA
So what will the lunar lander be carrying? It will have an aluminum alloy container filled with seeds and live insects to facilitate their study under these unique lunar conditions, along with instruments to study geological conditions on the dark side of the Moon.
As Zhang Yuanxun, the chief designer of the container, told the Chongqing Morning Post (according to China Daily), the Chang’e 4 Mission’s container will house potatoes, Arabidopsis seeds, and silkworm eggs.
After the eggs hatch into silkworms, the worms will produce carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, the potatoes and Arabidopsis seeds will emit oxygen through photosynthesis. “Together, they can establish a simple ecosystem on the Moon,” said Yuanxum, reports Futurism.
ASA Image: ISS021-E-006274 A close-up view of the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF) SPACE SEED...
ASA Image: ISS021-E-006274 A close-up view of the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF) SPACE SEED experiment is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 21 crew member in the Kibo laboratory on the International Space Station. ISS021-E-006274 A close-up view of the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF) SPACE SEED experiment is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 21 crew member in the Kibo laboratory on the International Space Station.
NASA
Why create a mini-environment on the Moon?
When you give it some thought, it is sensible to learn if we can colonize and actually live on the Moon before we attempt to colonize Mars. For one thing, it's a heck of a lot closer, right? But the lunar surface, and atmosphere, along with the lunar gravity, which is roughly 16 percent of Earth’s (or 0.1654 g) is daunting.
We really don't know if organisms can thrive under these conditions. This is why it is necessary to improve our understanding of how seeds might sprout and grow or how insects might survive and potentially thrive under such difficult and abnormal conditions.
And gravity, or the lack of gravity as we know it, is another problem that needs further study. We do know that "microgravity" can have unwanted ill effects on the human body. Researchers point out in the book “Biology in Space and Life on Earth: The Effects of Spaceflight on Biological Systems,” “Space is an unforgiving environment that does not tolerate human error and technical failure.”
Plants need gravity so they will know rather to grow up or down. And with China's experiment, the whole world can watch as the seeds germinate and grow. China plans to live stream the plants’ growth and development. We will have more on this development when the time nears.
More about space 2018, China, Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, miniecosystem, Technology