China will be attempting to grow potatoes on the Moon as part of the Chang’e-4 lunar mission scheduled for launch in 2018. Besides, there is also a plan to send insects to see if they can survive.
According to The Chongqing Morning Post, the potatoes will be sealed inside a mini ecosystem. The spuds will be sharing a small cylinder with silkworm larvae.
The goal of the sending the potatoes and insects is to see whether they can survive on the surface of the Moon. The mini ecosystem will work around the process of carbon creation from the silkworm eggs hatching and oxygen generation from the potatoes, resulting in a give and take between the organisms.
The experiment will give a crucial insight to scientists about the viability of a future human colony on the lunar surface. The mini ecosystem that will house the potatoes and insects will measure 18 cm in length, 3 kg in weight and will have a diameter of 16 cm.
The Strait Times reported that one of the issues that the research team has to address is the huge difference between Earth’s and Moon’s environments. For instance, the temperature on the lunar surface can be as low as -170°C. According to the research team, it could take a high amount of energy to make sure that the mini ecosystem capsule keeps running in the harsh atmosphere of Earth’s natural satellite.
Incidentally, the team hopes that they can make a live stream of the process. "We hope it will raise awareness on environmental issues and generate interest in space exploration," the head designer of the project, Professor Xie Gengxin, said.
Interestingly, potatoes played an important role in the 2015 Hollywood blockbuster The Martian, a movie based on a book by Andy Weir, which starred Matt Damon. The actor played the part of an astronaut stranded on Mars who resorts to farming potatoes on the Martian surface to survive.