China is planning to send mini-ecosystems – containing potato seeds and silkworm eggs – to the Moon next year, in an attempt to study how the organisms develop on the lunar surface. The 3-kilogramme mini-ecosystem, developed by research teams led by Chongqing University in China, will be sent to the Moon by the Chang’e 4 scheduled to launch in 2018, authorities announced at the Global Space Exploration Conference.
An 18-centimetre-tall cylinder will carry potato seeds and silkworm eggs to be incubated. The silkworms will hatch and create carbon dioxide, while the potato plants will generate oxygen, Zhang Yuanxun. Xie Gengxin, chief designer on the project, said their mission is to prepare for future moon landings and possible human inhabitants. China is planning a manned mission to the Moon, and officials have announced that the preliminary preparations for the lunar landing have begun. Yang Liwei, deputy director general of China Manned Space Agency and the country’s first astronaut, said that it will not take long for the project to get official approval and funding.