Strange but true, there are, as of January 3, 2019, plants and animals on the moon. A biosphere experiment in China’s unmanned Chang’e-4 lander contains rockcress seeds, potato seeds and silkworm eggs (in a container on the probe) on the far side of the moon.
A small “tin” in the lander contains seeds of potatoes and rockcress (Arabidopsis thaliana, a flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard, as well as a model organism for plant biology), as well as silkworm eggs. The idea, according to a report in The Telegraph earlier this year, is that the plants will support the silkworms with oxygen, and the silkworms will in turn provide the plants with necessary carbon dioxide and nutrients through their waste. The researchers will watch the plants carefully to see whether the plants successfully perform photosynthesis, and grow and bloom in the lunar environment. …
The “biosphere” experiment was the product of a collaboration between 28 Chinese universities, led by southwest China’s Chongqing University, according to Xinhua. The experiment, which is tucked inside a 1.4-pint (0.8 liters) aluminum alloy cylinder, weighs about 7 lbs. (3 kilograms) and includes dirt, nutrients and water. Sunlight will filter into the container through a “tube,” and small cameras will watch the little environment. That data will beam back to Earth by means of the complicated relay system China has set up to communicate with an experiment that has no direct line of sight to Earth.
“Why potato and Arabidopsis? Because the growth period of Arabidopsis is short and convenient to observe. And potato could become a major source of food for future space travelers,” said Liu Hanlong, chief director of the experiment and vice president of Chongqing University, as reported by Xinhua. “Our experiment might help accumulate knowledge for building a lunar base and long-term residence on the moon.”
Read more: LiveSci
You may wonder then… could we ever terraform the moon to make it habitable? There has been some thought about how it might be done:
When it comes to terraforming the Moon, the possibilities and challenges closely resemble those of Mercury. For starters, the Moon has an atmosphere that is so thin that it can only be referred to as an exosphere. What’s more, the volatile elements that are necessary for life are in short supply (i.e. hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon).
These problems could be addressed by capturing comets that contain water ices and volatiles and crashing them into the surface. The comets would sublimate, dispersing these gases and water vapor to create an the atmosphere. These impacts would also liberate water that is contained in the lunar regolith, which could eventually accumulate on the surface to form natural bodies of water.
The transfer of momentum from these comet would also get the Moon rotating more rapidly, speeding up its rotation so that it would no longer be tidally-locked. A Moon that was sped up to rotate once on its axis every 24 hours would have a steady diurnal cycle, which would make colonization and adapting to life on the Moon easier.
Read more: UniverseToday
A rotating moon would be pretty strange. Would we really want that?