China is sprouting a small cotton plant on the Moon, making the country the first to grow a plant on a heavenly body besides Earth.
Developed by Chongqing University as part of the Chang’e 4 mission to land a probe on the far side of the Moon, this tiny cotton shoot is growing inside a miniature biosphere formed inside a container, 3kg, 18cm x 16cm, with air, water and soil, necessary for the sprout’s survival.
The images sent by the lunar lander show the cotton plant growing well, but apart from cotton, there are potato seeds, Arabidopsis, fruit fly and silkworm eggs and yeast too, but none of them have sprouted yet, according to reports.
China successfully landed the lunar lander along with the rover at the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the Moon, on 3 January 2019. It’s intended to study the lunar terrain, cosmic rays and observe the solar corona.
“They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially ‘colonized’ it.”
― Andy Weir, The Martian
So, technically, China colonized the Moon.
Although the cotton isn’t growing on the lunar soil (which isn’t possible because of the hostile conditions), growing the first plant on the Moon is still a big deal for the Chinese, thus for the human race.
China is looking forward to future lunar missions which will return Moon samples and begin construction of lunar bases.
Update (Jan 16, 2019): The cotton sprout has died, according to reports from Xinhua. The plant wasn’t able to survive the extreme temperatures on the Moon, it wasn’t expected to survive either.