The Chang'e 4 lander contains seeds to grow plants on the Moon. The Moon has non-sustainable life conditions. Among those are the lack of water, atmosphere, the varying extreme temperatures, the low gravity, the solar radiations, etc.

However at least one cotton plant has germed and is in the process of growing.

How did the CNSA engineers have the plants germ then grow on the Moon? And are the plants supposed to die of natural death or will the harsh conditions kill them, if such, which one first?


1 Answer 1


While it's still cool, it's not as tricky as it may sound at first:

The seeds, including water, are stored in a sealed, heated and shielded container. The container also includes fruit flies and yeast. So the plants are not grown in the lunar soil (which would be the interesting and challenging next step) but in a portable, sealed ecosystem.

(See for example this article, among many about this subject.)

  • 31
    $\begingroup$ There is no soil on the moon. Lunar regolith has no organic components, which is the defining characteristic of a soil. Lunar regolith is only ground up rock: silica, iron, aluminium, and oxygen. $\endgroup$
    – dotancohen
    Jan 16, 2019 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ Tangentially, c.f. The Martian, and the process of making Mars "dirt" into something capable of supporting plant growth. $\endgroup$
    – Adrien
    Jan 16, 2019 at 18:48
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    $\begingroup$ The cotton seedling that sprouted has reportedly been killed by the cold now. $\endgroup$
    – Robyn
    Jan 17, 2019 at 0:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Robyn they probably turned off the heating and lights in the growing chamber the moment they had their publicity shots, in order to preserve the batteries of the lander during the lunar night. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Jan 17, 2019 at 4:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Mazura They're already dead. $\endgroup$ Jan 17, 2019 at 6:35

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