I still remember watching the movie The Martian and thinking about how many different things had to come together for Matt Damon’s character to produce food. Not sure whether I joked about his growing his own jeans back then, but it didn’t surprise me to hear someone is looking to grow cotton on the moon. I just wish I knew more about it.
Watching The Martian, It was clear that it would be really challenging to grow food on a place that has a really different environment. And I remember the curiosity with which I greeted meeting a NASA researcher a few years ago who talked about how scientists had actually been working on these types of projects as they think about the future.
So what’s happening with cotton on the moon?
China Announces Cotton Seeds Have Sprouted
Earlier today, headlines started bouncing around as China’s National Space Administration shared a photo. Seems major Chinese media led with the story.
First in human history: A cotton seed brought to the moon by China's Chang'e 4 probe has sprouted, the latest test photo has shown, marking the completion of humankind's first biological experiment on the moon pic.twitter.com/CSSbgEoZmC
— People's Daily, China (@PDChina) January 15, 2019
I have to say, the photo isn’t the clearest farm photo of emergence I have ever seen, but then again, this is a landscape unlike any.
According to the BBC, the Chinese space agency is interested in finding ways to produce food, etc in space much like NASA. The plants are in a tray inside the Chang’e 4 probe which landed on the moon earlier this month. There are also potatoes and yeast and (no joke) fruit fly eggs on the mooncraft. Wish I had known cause I would have put money on cotton rising to the occasion.
I’ve seen cotton grown in a number of ways — cotton seed sprouting in paper towels may be the closest to this I guess. Heat and moisture are the biggest components of getting cotton to emerge. That is done in darkness for stress testing at times but cotton really likes light. You may remember that sometimes folks like me grow a bit of cotton inside to transplant it (remember how we’ve discussed garden plantings of cotton) and there are greenhouses that grow cotton out for research purposes.
I can’t help but wonder how these sprouts will grow up!