BEIJING – The cotton bud aboard China’s Chang’e-4 lander that became the first plant to sprout on the far side of the moon is dead due to the onset of lengthy lunar night during which temperatures fell down to 170 degrees Celsius below zero.
State television CGTN reported Thursday that the photosynthesizing experiment of the Chinese probe had concluded and the photos of the sprout were published Tuesday.
On Jan. 13, the space ship located on the far side of the moon entered energy-saving mode during the lunar night, which is equivalent to 14 Earth days.
The temperature during the two-week-long night could drop as low as -170 degrees Celsius, under which the cotton sprout stood no chance of survival.
“During the 212.75 hours from power-on to power-off, the payload (experiment) worked well. Some of the results exceeded our expectations,” said Xie Gengxin, the experiment’s designer, as cited by CGTN.
He pointed out that the photograph released on Tuesday by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) in which the sprout was seen as growing healthily was taken on Saturday 8 pm.
According to Xie, also the dean of Chongqing University’s Institute of Advanced Technology, the experiment has helped them obtain an immense amount of valuable information.
“The main purpose was the popularization of science,” said Liu Hanlong, experiment lead and another professor from Chongqing University.
In fact, the idea of bringing a biological payload to the moon was selected from 257 suggestions made in 2016 by university students and institutes in China.
The Chang’e-4 probe, which on Jan. 3 successfully landed on the far side of the moon for the first time in history, brought with it cotton seeds, rapeseeds, potatoes and arabidopsis, as well as fruit fly eggs and some yeasts in order to create a simple mini-biosphere, although only the cottonseed flourished.
CNSA explained that organisms gradually decompose in the vessel in which the experiment was carried out and will not cause any damage to the lunar environment.