Chinese scientists claim they will attempt to grow potatoes on the moon in 2018, according to state-run media.
Researchers at Chongqing University told China Daily Thursday they’ll build a “mini ecosystem on the moon’s surface” as part of a probe that will launch next year. The probe will carry potato seeds and insect larvae to see if they can survive on the moon. The next step, scientists say, will be to colonize Mars.
NASA scientists have already successfully grown potatoes on a satellite in space inside a hermetically sealed container mimicking conditions on Mars. Sensors constantly monitor the condition of the potatoes and live streaming cameras are aimed at the soil to watch potatoes sprout.
Scientists believe mastering growing potatoes and other plants in space will greatly speed up attempts to colonize the moon and Mars. Growing potatoes on the Red Planet was a key premise of the 2015 blockbuster movie “The Martian.”
China opened a “lunar palace” training center in May so that the country can eventually operate a moon base.
China and the European Space Agency (ESA) announced a possible partnership to build a base on the moon in April. China wants to join the ESA’s Moon Village” plan, which would put a base on the moon starting in 2020 to mine minerals and provide a refueling station for future Mars missions. The ESA also hopes its moon base will attract paying space tourists.
China announced plans in December to land a probe on Mars by 2020. If the country successfully lands the probe on Mars, it will be the second nation in human history to do so. Both Russia and the European Union have repeatedly failed to operate a probe on Mars. No country besides the U.S. has successfully operated a probe on Mars for longer than 14.5 seconds.
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