China to grow potatoes on the moon

The "mini ecosystem" is just 18cm tall and weighs 3kg. PHOTO: THE CHONGQING MORNING POST

What played out on reel is going to be tested in real life, as Chinese scientists try to grow potatoes in a sealed "mini ecosystem" on the moon next year.

In the 2015 science fiction movie The Martian, an astronaut and botanist, played by Matt Damon, farmed potatoes for survival after being stranded on Mars.

Now, spuds and silkworm larvae will join Chang'e-4 mission to the moon, as part of a series of experiments, according to Chongqing Morning Post on Monday (June 12).

Unveiled at this year's Global Space Exploration Conference in Beijing, this experiment will be led by researchers at Chongqing University.

The team hopes to determine whether potatoes can grow on the moon, and whether insects can survive, reported China Radio International .

Head designer of the project, Professor Xie Gengxin, said this will yield insights into the viability of a future human colony.

The "mini ecosystem" stands at merely 18cm, with a diametre of 16cm, and weighs 3kg.

One of issues researchers need to resolve is the vast differences between the environments of the earth and the moon. For example, the temperature on the moon's surface can be as low as -170 deg Celcius.

Researchers also told The Chongqing Morning Post that it could take a lot of energy to ensure the capsule keeps running in the harsh atmosphere on the moon.

The team said it hopes to make a live stream of the process available.

"We hope it will raise awareness on environmental issues and generate interest in space exploration," said Prof Xie.

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