Tag: lunar surface

China’s First Plants to Grow on the Moon Are Already Dead

One day after China announced it grew the first plants on the Moon, the fledgling plants have been pronounced dead. Rest in peace, lunar sprouts.

On Tuesday, China’s space program said that cotton seeds had germinated in a biosphere carried to the Moon by the nation’s Chang’e-4 lunar lander.

By Wednesday, mission leads had broken the news that the plants perished as the lunar night fell over the probe’s landing site.

The Sunday arrival of the lunar night, which lasts 14 days, deprived the plants of sunlight. During a lunar night, temperatures can plummet as low as −170°C (−274°F).

Meanwhile, daytime temperatures on the Moon can reach a sweltering 127°C (260°F). These massive fluctuations are one of the main obstacles encountered by lunar explorers.

The remaining seeds and fruit fly eggs contained in the mission’s biosphere are not likely to be viable after two weeks of light deprivation and freezing temperatures.




According to China’s National Space Administration, they will decompose and remain sealed to avoid contaminating the lunar surface.

Chang’e-4 went into sleep mode on Sunday to prepare for the harsh night. The lander will rely on a radioisotope heat unit (RHU) to stay warm until sunlight returns in late January.

The mission’s rover Yutu 2, which rolled off a ramp to the lunar surface on January 3, is also dependent on an RHU during the cold spell.

Chang’e-4 is the first spacecraft ever to land on the far side of the Moon, which is commonly mistaken for the “dark” side of the Moon.

Though the far side is always angled away from Earth, it is not always angled away from the Sun. Both lunar faces experience roughly 14 days of daylight and 14 days of darkness in a regular lunar cycle.

Chang-e-4’s biosphere may have only survived for a brief week, but it still made history as the first garden planted at the surface of an alien world.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

First Photo Show China’s Lunar Rover Set Out Across The Far Side of The Moon

China’s far-side moon rover is already busy exploring its exotic new home.

On Wednesday night (Jan. 2), the Chang’e 4 rover and its stationary-lander companion pulled off the first-ever soft touchdown on the lunar far side, coming to a rest inside the 115-mile-wide (186 kilometers) Von Kármán Crater.

The six-wheeled rover, known as Yutu 2, isn’t pausing to catch its breath, as a newly released photo shows.

Yutu 2 has already put a fair bit of space between itself and the lander, trundling over near the rim of a small crater on the floor of Von Kármán, which itself lies within an even larger impact feature — the 1,550-mile-wide (2,500 km) South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Both Yutu 2 and the lander sport four science instruments, which they’ll use to study the surrounding dirt and rocks and probe the far side’s subsurface.




Such observations could help scientists better understand the moon’s composition, structure and evolution, Chinese space officials have said.

Chang’e 4’s images and data come home via a relay satellite called Queqiao, which is parked at a gravitationally stable spot beyond the moon.

Queqiao, which launched in May 2018, is collecting some data of its own. The spacecraft totes an astronomy instrument, and it has sent home striking images of the moon and Earth from its unique vantage point in space.

The solar-powered Yutu 2 is designed to operate for at least three months on the lunar surface. The original Yutu was also a moon rover, which landed on the near side in December 2013 as part of China’s Chang’e 3 mission.

Chang’e 1 and Chang’e 2 were moon orbiters that launched in 2007 and 2010, respectively. Chang’e 5, which could launch as early as this year, will aim to bring moon rocks and dirt down to Earth.

The most recent such lunar sample-return flight was achieved in 1976, by the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission.

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Pass it on: New Scientist