The description reads: "After experimenting under the moon's high vacuum, large temperature difference, strong radiation and harsh conditions, mankind has grown the first plant sprout, realising man's first moon-based biological growth experiment".
Each member of the experiment was chosen with a bioprocess goal in mind: Potato seeds represented a primary food supply for future space travelers (see also: The Martian), rapeseed could be used to produce oil, cotton seeds for clothing/supply fabric, the fruit fly would act as the consumer, and the yeast could regulate the oxygen and carbon dioxide being exchanged between the fly and the plants.
Images sent back by the probe show a cotton plant has grown well, but so far none of the other plants had sprouted, the university said. Liu Hanglong, a professor at the school of civil engineering at Chongqing University, who is leading the bio-experiment, told the South China Morning Post, that the rapeseed could produce oil for astronauts, potatoes could feed them, and cotton could clothe them.
The far side of the moon - the side which faces away from Earth - posed a challenge for scientists because it is beyond radio signals' reach. A People's Daily tweet said the test photo, "marks the completion of humankind's first biological experiment on the moon".
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The future launches will culminate with a mission to test equipment for an worldwide moon research base, Wu Yanhua, deputy chief commander of China's Lunar Exploration Programme, said at a press briefing.
The seeds include cotton, rapeseed, and potatoes.
The Chang'e-4 lunar probe landed on 3 January and transmitted the first-ever "close range" image of the "dark" side of the moon. "The drosophila melanogaster, as consumers, and yeast, as decomposers, would generate carbon dioxide by consuming oxygen for photosynthesis of plants". With an annual space budget of $8 billion, second only to the U.S., China is also looking to send a probe to the red planet by the end of this decade and build its own space station by 2022. It could even help provide a blueprint for growing resources during a future moon colony established by humans.
China launched the first of its lunar probe series named after the mythical Chinese moon goddess Chang'e to orbit the moon in 2007.