I’m not so good with keeping plants alive and healthy (one could argue I have the same problem with spiders), but as it turns out, Chinese space scientists are just as bad.
One day after China announced it grew the first plants on the Moon, the fledgling plants have been pronounced dead. Rest in peace, lunar sprouts.
On Tuesday, China’s space program said that cotton seeds had germinated in a biosphere carried to the Moon by the nation’s Chang’e-4 lunar lander. By Wednesday, mission leads had broken the news that the plants perished as the lunar night fell over the probe’s landing site.
To be fair, they are facing conditions worse than Minnesota.
The Sunday arrival of the lunar night, which lasts 14 days, deprived the plants of sunlight. During a lunar night, temperatures can plummet as low as −170°C (−274°F). Meanwhile, daytime temperatures on the Moon can reach a sweltering 127°C (260°F). These massive fluctuations are one of the main obstacles encountered by lunar explorers.
But still, that’s no excuse — they knew all this way ahead of time when planning the experiment. Were they just hoping for a spell of warm weather? They knew that wasn’t going to happen, either. Meteorology on a dead planet with virtually no atmosphere is a much easier problem than it is here.
The remaining seeds and fruit fly eggs contained in the mission’s biosphere are not likely to be viable after two weeks of light deprivation and freezing temperatures. According to China’s National Space Administration, they will decompose and remain sealed to avoid contaminating the lunar surface.
They killed fruit flies, too? I don’t understand the point of this experiment if the chamber environment was so poorly planned that one night of expected temperatures was going to kill everything.
Keep this in mind next time you read The Martian. That book was gratingly optimistic and unrealistic about everything.