The choice of plants for the first lunar ecosystem is a bit unusual.

They are growing cotton, rapeseed and potatoes.

Why did the Chinese scientists choose them? Is it because of their ability to thrive in such an environment or because of their possible contribution to sustaining life in long space missions?


1 Answer 1


China's state-run Xinhua News Agency mentions the reasoning for most of the species they sent:

Why were these species chosen?

Xie [the chief designer of the experiment] said potatoes could be a major source of food for future space travelers. The growth period of Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard, is short and easy to observe. Yeast could play a role in regulating carbon dioxide and oxygen in the mini biosphere, and the fruit fly would be a consumer of the photosynthesis process.

While this doesn’t mention cotton, it seems very likely to me that, like potatoes, it’s just a very useful crop.

According to another article, the goal for China is a moon research base:

“We’ll use the Chang’e-8 to test certain technologies & do some preliminary exploration for jointly building a research base on the moon,” Wu said.

  • $\begingroup$ Arabidopsis, yeast, and fruit flies are also model organisms. $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Jan 18, 2019 at 19:50

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