Welcome To The Dark Side …

January 19, 2019

Of the moon that is! The start of 2019 has been an exciting one for space scientists and space enthusiasts alike! First it was the confirmed discoveries of three distant exoplanets that were spotted by TESS, a space probe that was launched into space last year. Around the same time, China’s space agency did something pretty spectacular: For the first time ever, a spacecraft landed on the “dark side” of the moon! The “dark side” … like the evil side? Nah—it’s actually the South Pole-Aitken Basin area of the moon, or the side of the moon that we earthlings don’t see and has yet to be studied—that is, until now.

By Apollo 16 astronauts – http://www.lpi.usra.edu/resources/apollo/frame/?AS16-M-3021, NASA Apollo 16 photograph AS16-3021, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17811375

On January 3rd, China’s spacecraft called the Chang’e 4 made a soft landing on the dark side of the moon. Its mission? To take pictures of this unexplored part of the moon, collect soil samples, and plant a mini garden. Awesome, right? So how successful has the Chang’e 4 been since making its historic space landing? Well, China’s happy to report that the seeds that were transported to the moon have sprouted! While plants have grown on the International Space Station before, this is the first time that any biological material has grown on the moon. Why is this so important? Because being able to grow food on the moon means that astronauts might potentially be able to harvest their own food in space—allowing them to travel to distant planets like Mars, which takes a grueling two and a half years to get to. While this announcement is exciting news, growing things on the moon is still in its early stages. Let’s just say we wouldn’t go making any plans for distant space travel or a personal vegetable garden on the moon just yet.

What do you think are some of the things that space scientists must consider in order to grow a plant on the moon? What do you think are some of the things that space scientists could do to advance space exploration?