First plant grown on moon has already withered and died

A tiny cotton sprout which made history as the first plant to grow on the moon has withered and died in the bitterly cold lunar night soon after it sprouted, say Chinese scientists.

The cotton seedling died on Sunday when the Chang'e 4 lander was plunged into darkness as lunar night meant that that temperature dropped to -170 Celsius.

Professor Xie Gengxin of Chongqing University said that his team had anticipated that lunar night would bring an end to the experiment, which saw seedlings and fruit fly eggs inside a canister in the lander.

Temperatures in the canister dropped to -52C, and would fall further, the researchers said – as the canister has no heating system to deal with the sudden chill.

Astronauts have previously sprouted plants on the International Space Station, but never on the moon.

The breakthrough is seen as key to future space missions, as the ability to grow plants could be key to longer-term missions such as journeys to Mars.

The cotton seed grew in a lattice-like structure inside a canister after the lander touched down on the moon on January 3, say researchers at Chongqing University.

The far side of the moon has been observed many times from lunar orbits, but never explored on the surface.

It is popularly called the 'dark side' because it cannot be seen from Earth and is relatively unknown, not because it lacks sunlight.

The pioneering landing highlights China's ambitions to rival the US, Russia and Europe in space through manned flights and the planned construction of a permanent space station.

This article originally appeared on Yahoo

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