According to local Chongqing Morning Post, China will include a small ecosystem in one of its spacecraft that landed on the moon in 2018 to see if potatoes can be grown on the lunar surface from seed.
China unveiled its plans for this experiment at the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX 2017) in Beijing this week.
The spacecraft that will carry out this is called Chang’e 4 , and the ecosystem consists of a small cylinder that measures 18 by 16 centimeters
Along with the seeds, China plans to send silkworm eggs into the ecosystem. Scientists and researchers from 28 Chinese universities are helping to design the hardware to make the mission as accurate as possible.
One of the scientists and designers of the container, Zhang Yuanxun, told the Chongqing Morning Post:
“Eggs will hatch on silkworms, which can produce carbon dioxide, while potatoes and seeds emit oxygen through photosynthesis, together they can establish a simple ecosystem on the Moon.”
As the temperature on the Moon can vary dramatically between -170 ° C and 100 ° C, the ecosystem will be protected with insulation material, which will keep plants and insects at a moderate temperature. There will also be artificial lights inside, powered by batteries.
And there is no reason to think that the Chinese will keep this a secret, as they have revealed that they will make public the progress of the experiment.
Curiously no country has tried something like this before. At the International Space Station (ISS), astronauts have grown a variety of vegetables, but so far it has never been made outside the station.