Can China plant vegetables on the Moon? Soil samples brought back by Chang'e 5 triggers discussions online
Published: Dec 21, 2020 01:10 AM

Photos: China Space News

Can China plant vegetables on the Moon? What can we plant? The questions triggered heated discussions online over the weekend after Chang'e 5 returned to Earth on Thursday with 1,731 grams of samples from the moon.

But science might have disappointed them. "Unlike the organic soil on earth, the soil from the moon does not contain any organic nutrients and is very dry, which is neither suitable for growing vegetables nor potatoes," Zhu Guangquan, a CCTV anchor, said via a video posted on the Sina Weibo account of CCTV on Saturday, quoting scientists.

Chinese netizens have been highly interested in growing vegetables on the moon. The topic "Lunar soil really can't grow vegetables" gains more than 63.3 million views on Sina Weibo and was discussed more than 17,000 times as of press time.

There were more than 8,100 comments below the video. "Chinese people really hold on to the idea of growing vegetables throughout history," a Sina Weibo user @Siberian-shuaihe joked.

Another Weibo user commented, "Yuan Longping's eyes have lit up: there is no place where rice cannot grow!" Yuan, a globally renowned agronomist known for developing the first hybrid rice strains, is dubbed as "father of hybrid rice".

However, although the soil on the moon cannot grow vegetables, it can be used in other ways. The long-term solar wind injected a large amount of helium-3 into the lunar soil, which can be used as clean energy and generating electricity through thermonuclear fusion, according to the video posted by CCTV.

China National Space Administration (CNSA) held a lunar sample handover ceremony on Saturday morning in Beijing, where the sample was handover to Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). 

The lunar samples will be divided into three parts for different purposes, CNSA deputy head Wu Yanhua said. Labs for scientific research will receive some, while the other two will be displayed in national museums for the public's education and shared with the international community in accordance with lunar data management regulations. They could even be given as special gifts to countries that work closely with China on aerospace matters. 

A Weibo user also assumed boldly, "If we cannot grow vegetables on the moon, how about going to Mars and get some soil sample from there for study?"

China launched the country's first-ever Mars probe, codenamed Tianwen-1, on July 23 and currently, it has traveled 370 million kilometers and reached more than 100 million kilometers from Earth, according to CNSA's update last week. 

Soldiers of the Chinese navy have successfully grown vegetables in sand in Yongxing Island in the Xisha Islands of the South China Sea. In addition, Chinese scientific expedition team also has grown vegetables in Antarctica.

Global Times