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Chang'e 4's sprouted cotton seeds die during first lunar night

By Brooks Hays
Chang'e 4's sprouted cotton seeds die during first lunar night
The sprouted cotton seeds inside Chang'e-4's biosphere are now dead as a result of the frigid temperatures brought on by the lunar night. Photo by Chongqing University

Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Almost as soon as it started it was over. The seeds that sprouted on the lunar surface, inside the biosphere installed by China's Chang'e-4 probe, are now dead.

"Life in the canister would not survive the lunar night," Xie Gengxin, professor at Chongqing University, told China's state news agency earlier this week.

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And now, the lunar night has commenced. It's the first time lunar night has descended since Chang'e-4 became the first spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon.

The lunar night, which lasts two weeks, can feature temperatures as low as negative 298 degrees Fahrenheit -- too cold for much of anything, let alone tiny sprouts, to survive.

The probe will remain in hibernation during the entirety of the lunar night, returning to its scientific mission only when day breaks in February.

Several days after landing, the lander-rover began the scientific exploration phase of its mission, which included planting seeds on the lunar surface. Earlier this week, Chinese scientists confirmed that the cotton seeds had sprouted.

In addition to cotton seeds, Chang'e 4 also carried potato seeds, yeast and fruit fly eggs to the moon -- all of which were insulated inside a protective biosphere.

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According to China's state news agency, scientists with the China National Space Administration said all of the organisms inside the biosphere will decompose and will not impact the lunar environment.

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