For the “mini lunar biosphere” experiment, southwestern China-based Chongqing University sent along a 7-inch-tall bucket-like tin with air, water, and soil that contains cotton, potato, and arabidopsis seeds—the latter is a plant in the mustard family—as well as fruit fly eggs and yeast. The team was originally planning to send silkworm cocoons at the time the project was revealed to the public in April but later opted for fruit flies instead, state media Guancha reported in December (link in Chinese). It’s unclear why they swapped, but it could be that fruit fly is a better fit for a demanding growing environment.

The tin to be sent to the moon with silkworm and plants seeds.
The tin containing plant seeds.
Image: Weibo/Chungking

Scientists at Chongqing University explained earlier that a tube inside the tin will direct natural light from the moon for photosynthesis, while any plants that grow will emit oxygen, hopefully creating a little ecosystem. The team hopes to live broadcast (link in Chinese) the progress of the organisms. The Institute of Advanced Technology of Chongqing University, which is in charge of the experiment, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

In 2013, NASA announced a plan to conduct a similar experiment to study how seeds including basil, turnips, and arabidopsis could grow on the Moon. But the plan was not carried out.

“It’s the first time humans have achieved growing living things on the Moon,” a challenging environment of low gravity, high radiation, and huge temperature differences, CCTV said.

“The sprout will keep growing and we can expect it to become the first green leaf on the Moon,” said CGTN (link in Chinese).

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