while I'm not sure why they thought it had any chance of surviving, it remains a fact that you never know if you never try. Science in a nutshell.
Or a tin can, I suppose.
The budding cotton seed hailed as the first plant to ever grow on the Moon, has, erm, died. Xinhua, China’s state owned press agency, announced the unfortunate news merely hours after celebrating the plant’s successful germination. “The experiment has ended,” it said. Maybe it's not that surprising, considering, the picture …
Noone on Earth can get Drosophila embros into storage like vertebrate embroys. Hence why the good guys at Bloomington stock center do a stirling job of turning live Drosophila stocks every month to provide the world with the mutants.
That said given that a Drosophila embryo hatches into a larva after 24h, I’m guessing they are in fact unfertilised eggs and not embroys given that the mission was unmanned...
They knew that the plants would not survive. It was a simple and interesting experiment to see if plants would be ok with the 1/6 gravity. Longer tests will be needed to see how different plants will grow and whether food stuffs can be cultivated from Earth stock or if mutated varieties will need to be cobbled together so lunar colonists can feed themselves and catapult tons of wheat each day to India.
Impossible to kill and really has no use.
Kudzu has plenty of uses, which is why it is established as an invasive species in the US. It is great for controlling erosion, has a number of uses as food and animal fodder, and is a source of fiber for use in textiles and paper. The problem isn't the plant lacking utility so much as that few in the US make use of it.
"Kudzu has plenty of uses, which is why it is established as an invasive species in the US."
Typical of humans, kudzu was introduced to the US specifically as an erosion control measure without any pre-distribution testing. Controls erosion? Good enough! The government actually paid farmers to plant it, and it was called Creeping Roosevelt by many. Also Mile-A-Minute Vine.
Sorry spud, the problem isn't that this wonder plant is lying around ignored. Industrial use of any plant typically requires it's farmed somewhere you can collect it. The PROBLEM is that there's a patch here, some there, over there, not convenient to collect for business use. In the meantime, it's burying land and and killing trees, and it's growing up to three feet a day in summer. Maybe one could farm it for products, but the random patches eating the South don't count and are simply a pest.
"Surely the only living thing on the planet having any real chance of surviving the lunar night has to be Theresa May."
This calls for a suitable mission to be arranged forthwith in order to test your hypothesis. How do we get this done?
It might also be a good idea to send the opposition leader as well, for comparison.
I'm not sure that such a small number would really give a scientifically useful result. I mean, you have one control in there but he's widely suspected to be a fruitcake, and you know how long your grans inedible fruitcake lasts. I'm sure that would survive being frozen and baked without becoming less edible.
Clearly the control group needs to be of a reasonable size. So, the entire commons, plus any member of a political party sitting in the house of lords?
>Clearly the control group needs to be of a reasonable size. So, the entire commons, plus any member of a political party sitting in the house of lords?
From the other side of the big water, we can cheerfully loan you a big pile of congressmen and senators.
You know, just to increase the statistical accuracy.
How do we get this done?
Calling Elon Musk! Calling Elon Musk!
Stick May and Corbyn in a car, Musk already knows how to fling it into space. But what if the OP hypothesis was correct, and May could survive in the cold, friendless darkness on the far side of the moon? The Chinese might inadvertently bring her back.
I say set co-ordinates for the Sun.
Stick May and Corbyn in a car, Musk already knows how to fling it into space. But what if the OP hypothesis was correct, and May could survive in the cold, friendless darkness on the far side of the moon?
The really frightening hypothesis would be them both surviving, and in the loneliness and the long, long nights, one thing leading to another... well, I'm sure you get the idea. We might want to get ready to nuke the moon
from orbit . Only way to be sure, all that sort of things.
Today we're growing tatties and neaps to demonstrate the uptake of Helium-3 by plants on the marginally-more-hostile-than-Aberdeen environment of the moon. Today's temperature is a touch fresh at -120C so frost may be a wee problem and germination may be slow but luckily there's no chance of windchill to undermine my sporran. ...
I don't really see how they hoped anything could survive 14 days of total darkness with temperatures more than twice as cold as anything earth has to offer. Clearly the probe could not provide energy to keep the canister warm and illuminated for those two weeks with no sunlight, apparently it hasn't even enough energy reserves to power itself during the lunar night. So, what was this "mini biosphere" thing all about? When the next lunar day comes, everything in that canister will be (very) deep frozen. Do they hope to thaw and revive those seeds and eggs somehow? I'm intrigued.
Original purpose of going to the moon = prove Merkin capitalism is better than rooskie communism (or to prove that our Germans are better than their Germans)
Purpose of this lander = to get some publicity and make people think of China as the next scientific (and commercial/military) superpower and not just somewhere that makes cheap knock-off sneakers.
What can you do on the moon that the facebook generation would give a tweet about ?
There is probably no terrestrial plant that can handle that (aside from perhaps Antarctic lichens, but they aren't plants, strictly speaking). In northern latitudes, many plants survive winter, but the temperatures never get as low as in the lunar night, and they prepare for it during the summer and autumn: drop leaves and pump valuable stuff to roots like most trees do, or it is only the root system that survives.
Seeds might survive, but in the Chinese experiment these apparently had already germinated.
So their can is full of totally dead things by Lunar morning.
"There is probably no terrestrial plant that can handle that"
The fecking ivy that some moron planted all over my grounds before I bought the place, it seems to actually 'like' glyphosphate even when it is injected into the stems.
If anyone has a gardening sized nuke, I may be interested.
No the point is to try new things and see what happens. Scientists don't generally try things which 90% of the population already know won't work. I love that they went to the moon and it's great PR for a country so burdened with US propaganda as China, but science could already work out the temperature of a lunar night and tell you plants would hate it that cold. I assume they knew all that though and did it anyway for the PR which makes me love them even more. This shows China really doesn't need the US, and that's a great result.
How do you define "won't work"? And even if it does "not work", then studying how it doesn't work is still useful.
The question was, What happens if you try to grow various things on the moon? We have an answer to that question, so I don't understand how you can say that the experiment didn't work.
We knew how and why they wouldn't grow before the experiment. As such the experiment didn't test anything we didn't already have a full understanding of, nor did it provide any new data. In the same way, I don't need to try making a submarine out of swiss cheese. It's cheese and full of holes so we can already fully understand the outcomes without wasting all that cheese trying to determine whether it might be airtight. Yes, the experiment was valid, yes it succeeded in its goals. Good science is about moving things forwards, not about brute forcing every conceivable scenario that's not already been tried.
For instance, we (to my knowledge) never tried a spacewalk without a space suit. You think that would be worth a bash with a human subject in case we learn something new? How about with a rat, then a dog, then a penguin? We can be confident the outcomes would be as predicted so nobody needs to try these things. We know cotton plants don't do well at such cold temperatures, we don't need to see if they still die when there's low gravity because nothing about the gravity or the dark was ever going to save that little guy. They could similarly have tested the capsule on earth to see whether it could stay warm in the dark and extreme cold. It couldn't and apparently wasn't even designed to have the power to do so. If they had a module that could generate power in the lunar day and use that power for the whole lunar night to generate heat and light that would be worth testing. But we're not there yet.
The experiment to see whether they can break away from US propaganda about China seems to be working though. We all now can see they made it to the moon and did a bunch of things, and we can see they managed to afford to do so despite the Trump tarrifs. We can see they are good at science and engineering, and they don't appear to have copied from the West to achieve it.
"We can see they are good at science and engineering, and they don't appear to have copied from the West to achieve it."
Not disputing they can be good at it, but not sure that follows from this ...
Landing on the moon? (US, 1969, manned)
Discovering that plants don't like cryogenic temperatures? (Pretty sure the West knew that some time ago ...)
I think the point wasn't that "the experiment didn't return any data" so much as "the experiment didn't return any useful data". We know what the temperatures are during a lunar night. We know that with the lander powered down, the capsule temperature will drop to the same temperature or very close to. We know that the plants/animals they put in the capsule won't be able to survive exposure to those temperatures. While this experiment will confirm that, it seems strange that they didn't make some provision for heating and illuminating the capsule during the lunar night since "how will plants grow in an approximation of a greenhouse for a future lunar base?" is a much more interesting question to answer than "if we expose plants to cryogenic temperatures, will they die?".
I'd challenge the assertion that science doesn't try to prove (or disprove) things "everyone" knows won't work.
Once upon a time well over 90% of people "knew" that the Earth was the centre of the Solar System, if not the Entirety of Creation. So to keep taking observations to create a model that placed the Sun at the centre of our particular local system and establish that as just one of countless such systems would be a complete waste of time, yes ?
Once upon a time well over 90% of people "knew" that life could not exist without heat, light and oxygen. So there would be no point looking for life where one or more of that trinity was not to be found and we would still be entirely ignorant of the vast range of extremophiles that defy our previous "certainties" about where life could be found.
Once upon a time well over 90% of people "knew" that Earth is a flat disc, so to try to sail beyond the Great Ice Wall that kept everything on said disc would be to condemn oneself to an eternal descent into an infinite abyss. Of course, science would have no truck with such a reckless and self-evidently suicidal endeavour.
In a sense you are right about science being interested in "new things", but sometimes those "new things" are ideas which may very well contradict or at least undermine our previous or current known truths. i.e. scientists absolutely are concerned with proving (or disproving) what we all already "know" because surprisingly often what we all "know" turns out to be wrong.
Sometimes they do indeed simply confirm what we already know, and we ridicule them for wasting their time (and our money). But every once in a while .......
On this occasion, perhaps the thinking was that the germinated seed might react quite differently to the very different nature of the onset of Lunar Night (as opposed to any process we might have on Earth for "freezing" a germinated seed to approximate that process)
We wouldn't know unless we tried it.
And yes, it's a good PR stunt as well. But t'was ever thus... ask the Montgolfier's about the scientific value of PR.
Those people who challenge the status quo usually have a reasonable hypothesis and an explanation of why things might be different than expected. I'm sure the person who suggested the earth wasn't flat had some sort of explanation as to why they thought that and how they'd go about proving it was round.
Science Fiction is full of stories of humans putting life (even microscopic) on heavenly bodies and then the life coming back to bite the humans. Is this China experiment on the same page as the rest of Science? Or is the Moon considered contaminated because of what may or may not have happened circa 1969?
I've made smart-ass comments in these fora, but this time I do want to know the answer. Fire-arms opened the Wild West. Is all that is required for opening Space, just a rocket (a space-ass) with enough boosters? Shall we toss the last smollpox sample over to Deimos, to see what happens?
It's a closed ecosystem so much of the water consumed will be re-cycled: water is broken down as part of the carbon fixing process (photosynthesis) but my guess is that the bulk of the water consumed is through transpiration, i.e. evaporation through the stomata pores in the leaves.
Being able to grow cotton could help clothe space explorers
I've only an approximate idea of the processing and infrastructure* required to turn cotton bolls into clothing, but I suspect it will be impracticable for "space explorers" to grow their own clothes.
Come to that, how much growing space is required per shirt?
* Cotton gin, spinning jenny, loom, dying tank, sewing machine, and, if you're fussy, an iron. But it might be worth it to hear the message "Houston we have trouble at t'mill".
But if you were going along the route of self sufficiency on survival needs then it would run:-
Clothing is last on that list. I'd have thought that the first priority would be getting enough plants growing to be able to use simultaneously as Co2 sinks and a food source. (with the added criteria of using as little water as possible, since presumably shipping water (or recovering moisture from the air) would be expensive.
Not weave but spray on. The plan I saw was to first put on a mesh of strings, most would be along the lines of no extension. After that you would spray on the polymer, which is a nice way of saying latex.
Latex on curing compresses by 4 percent, which is handy in a space situation. More info - look up the MIT Biosuit. This is not science fiction but academic science research.
It turns out that skin needs to breath. Spray on some sort of contiguous clothing and you will have some serious problems. You would still need some sort of layer(s) for sweat, skin oils, etc.
Cotton might be good or maybe some other fiberous plant that can be used for clothing and is also edible. Cotton does take a lot of water to grow, but that water doesn't just disappear. We aren't going to Mars next week so there is time to work on a hybrid that isn't so thirsty or a mutant strain that's cotton on top and some sort of root vegetable under the soil.
You can simulate microgravity with a clinostat on Earth.
You don't get all the right radiation in low earth orbit (LEO) because of the Earth's magnetic field. It's not just "cosmic radiation" you have to have to worry about; there's also solar radiation that doesn't make it as far as LEO.
So you might be better off with a clinostat and a nuclear reactor or particle accelerator. But I have no idea what the state of the art is in simulating the radiation in space.
Yeah it's not like they couldn't already know the lunar night gets really cold.
Could have at least simulated effect of that here on the dirt ball before bunging it into space, then built the satellite to maintain the correct environment throughout.
Oops, lander not satellite.
Further research suggests this experiment was never meant to survive past lunar nightfall, therefore achieving what it set out to. That or the Chinese are saying that was the plan all along, to save face.
Whole thing hasn't been helped by the original pics being of the control experiment back on Earth, not the actual experiement on the moon. Just gives it an air of incompetence, or fakery, or both. Not saying those are true, just these kinds of mixup can lead to such thoughts.
Obviously experiments in growing stuff on the moon are going to be important if we ever want to set up a lunar base.
However, this experiment seemed doomed to a rapid failure.
Why would you include such an experiment when it would be displacing any number of other experiments that were probably put forward by China's universities?
Than just sprouting seeds. Setting up a functionnal micro-ecosystem is non-trivial even on Earth. I am not privy to the details, but I can only guess that the Unis have done some extensive research / testing down here before sending the cannister moonward, and that they will keep monitoring the experiment to see what happens to the other seeds, the flies , the yeast etc
This all seems worthy research to me.
(Of course there is a publicity angle, too, but in our world publicity is how you get funding for research, and not only in China)
Why didn't they announce it as a 10 day experiment? Just land, germinate cotton, declare success and end at nightfall.
Unfortunately, now it looks like incompetent planning leading to an inevitable failure. The SCMP article even mentions "a small but powerful control system to keep the interior at around 25 degrees Celsius" - did they inform the designer of the portable heater of the expected working conditions?
Including fruit flies seems over-ambitious, the plants are going to take a while to produce any food for them. Perhaps they could have planned it in 3 phases: prepare by flash-freezing the fruit fly eggs and yeast in liquid nitrogen. Phase 1: seeds germinate, die at nightfall; Phase 2: thaw the fruit fly eggs at dawn and let them feed on the dead plants, die at nightfall; Phase 3: thaw the yeast at dawn, let it grow in whatever is left.
They would perhaps do better to start with an already up'n'running biosphere, say one of those vases full of plants and water living insects, wrap it up really really well, and see how it gets on.
We already know that plants germinate in space, that they germinate in human temperature, and such: what you need to know here is whether they grow up in the right direction at one sixth of a g, and with a fortnightly day/night cycle with no seasonal affect.
Stage two - is there anything useful in moondust that plants can live on, other than using it as a structural support for the roots?
There's a lot of science here, important for those of us old enough to have seen Apollo landing, and wondering why we haven't got colonies all over the asteroid belt by now...
> I can't stop looking at the gobs of silicone adhesive squirted into a lunar scientific experiment with a shaky hand.
The bluey-white splodge? I think
you'll we'll all find out soon enough that that is The Thing, emerging from the result of a cosmic-ray induced cross-mutation. Soon it will learn how to reverse the polarity of the lander's rockets and launch itself to Earth.
One can learn a lot more from a failed experience than a successful one
Microsoft must have learned one heck of a lot from the various disasters that have befallen its OS software releases since it first launched W8.
Aahhhh....yes, I note the word "can" is not the same as "will".
"He's dead, Jim"
"Where is everybody, Hol'?"
"They're dead, Dave."
"What, Captain Hollister?"
"Everybody's dead, Dave."
"Everybody's dead, Dave."
"They're all dead. Everybody's dead, Dave."
"Peterson isn't, is he?"
"Everybody's dead, Dave!"
"Gordon Bennett! Yes, Chen. Everyone. Everybody's dead, Dave!"
"He's dead, Dave. Everybody is dead. Everybody is dead, Dave."
"Wait. Are you trying to tell me everybody's dead?"
"Should've never let him out in the first place...."
Bit harsh to say the experiment failed. It germinated and it grew. It might not have met all the desired outcomes of the experiment but it doesn't seem like a failure.
I'd love to be privvy to some of the discussion in the US about Chinese space developments. Oh right they're won't be any because the government has shut down over a planning issue.
The experiment (as originally described) was clearly a multi-generational one, and the amount of power reserves required for it to survive through a lunar night are not actually all that high. However, 'not all that high' could still quickly become higher then 'safe reserves available for secondary functions' if the units insulation, solar panels, battery reserves or any of a dozen other factors were even slightly less efficient then planned, leaving them no choice but to pull the plug. I still say they deserve major credit for even trying.
That sounds plausible: Maybe they lost the auxiliary power (batteries, nuclear pile, hamster-on-a-wheel?) that was meant to keep the plants warm and cozy. And instead of admitting having a big technical problem, they try to save face by spinning the experiment's history
As far as conspiracy theories go, this one is rather mild...
Couldn't they have tested this before they tested it on the moon by taking their small biosphere to Antarctica and leaving it outside? They could start when there is a lot of sunlight and then cover the solar panels if present to simulate the nightfall. If the heater can't survive a fortnight in that, it won't on the moon either. The transit costs would be much less.
They didn't say they were going to grow crops, they did an experiment to study the germination of seeds.
And that is what they did, successfully.
Of course they didn't expect it to survive the lunar night temperatures. That doesn't mean the experiment failed. If it provided some results, it was a successful experiment, whatever the results were.
"The experiment was originally touted as a study into the potential ways astronauts might be able to live in space during long missions. Being able to grow cotton could help clothe space explorers, Liu Hanglong, a professor at the school of civil engineering at Chongqing University, who is leading the bio-experiment, previously told the South China Morning Post."
Hmmm -- might have put my finger on why the experiment per se didn't accomplish very much. Maybe put a plant biologist in charge next time?
appeared in many papers as a grid that you would look through desperately trying to find the shoot,
I found it on one site - it would have been an inch or two off the the left on all the other ones published. It seems most sites crop (crap) the photo to fit the layout without person with clue checking it.
Why is that a problem ?
We have insulators that withstand far higher temperature differentials than a couple of hundred degrees, I remember a publicity photo from the early days of the space shuttle, someone holding a re-entry shield tile in their fingertips on the corners while the center glowed red hot (easily faked photo, but the shuttle did work)
Heat loss, AFAICR occurs through radiation, convection, and conduction. Convection should not be a issue. Radiation and conduction are engineering problems and solvable as such. It may just be that mass constraints precluded carrying enough insulation, but the narrative the Chinese were pushing wasnt going to mention that..
Serious question - why not land at a lunar pole? Orbital mechanics could be a bit more challenging, but it will at least have sunlight all the time, albeit at a low angle.
The sunlight might be somewhat attenuated though, and solar panels would have to stand up like a wall, AND rotate to follow the sun. A radio dish would also have to follow Earth too.
Some brief googling suggests humanity has landed at 37 degrees north with Luna 17 and 40 degrees south with Surveyor 7 according to https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/multimedia/moonimg_07.html but that's quite old now.
This is a good point. Both poles have (supposedly - evidence is hard to get) what are called Peaks of Eternal Light, a rather poetic name for peaks that extends above the shadows. The Lunar axis tilts by only 3 degrees so it is not far fetched.
There are snags though, having low solar angles these peaks are not well mapped which presents a risk. Also if you read military space warfare literature (just to clarify - this is not science fiction literature but articles from US military) you will see these were once of great strategic interest (continuous solar power is a huge advantage as is permanent radio link to Earth). Until Trump started talking about a Space Force this was confined to paper studies. Now, however, focus is shifting, and going there can be seen as upping the tension.
Also that would exclude reaching the far side of the Moon which also has challenges.
One of the issues with going to Mars is that clothing would be a problem. Wear out your unders and it's a couple of years to get a fresh pack. Of course, all petroleum based fabrics are out. Wool? Yeah, right. That leaves mainly cotton and flax (linen) and then there is the problem of making cloth and assembling it into clothing. 3D printing a loom would be a major feat, but a loom might be one of the first round of machines that would need to be built from locally sourced materials. The first problem with going to Mars is having healthy enough humans after the trip out. After that, they are going to need just a huge list of things since living off of the land is not an option. Setting up a moon base and running experiments such as finding out what will grow will be crucial to traveling further out.
Great! As a Canadian living next door to the US, I have to remember this one.
Besides the US, does any other "developed" country in the world still use Faren,... uh, Freedum degrees?
The local US radio stations drive me nuts with their antiquated weather reports.
hmmm... So one KM is now approx .625 Freedomiles.
And it takes 2.54 cm to make a Freeduminch. Yeah, that's about right
How many stone does a Brit weigh? ??? Oh! A Stone = 14 FreedumLb
Uhh.. I mean ONE Brexitstone of course!
I've read all the comments here, many good if contradictory points, and I have a solution. We launch tens of thousands of sequoias to be planted all at once on the moon, inside modified SpaceX rockets, wrapped in woolly jumpers. You know, as an experiment. Space Force!
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