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China will grow potatoes on the dark side of the moon by the end of the year

中国将在月球背面种土豆



The moon has been neglected for far too long, and China seems keen on moving fast to cover all the lost lunar ground. The nation’s ambitious space program, among other things, is set on achieving several important milestones.

月球已经被忽视很长时间了,不过现在中国似乎热衷于尽快覆盖所有地球表面。中国雄心勃勃的太空计划,立志取得里程碑式的成绩。

A trifecta, consisting of a lunar probe, lander, and rover, will be deployed to the moon’s orbit and surface respectively. This will be the first time a man-made contraption makes a soft landing on the far side of the moon, a site of renewed interest for many scientists. The mission will also carry insects and plants that will form a mini-ecosystem on the moon whose response will teach us valuable lessons in preparations for a manned outpost or even a colony.

月球探测器、着陆器和月球车将被分别部署到月球的轨道和表面。这将是人造设备第一次在月球背面实现软着陆,很多科学家对月球表面重新产生了兴趣。这次登月任务还会携带由昆虫和植物组成的微型生态系统,人们会从中能获取有价值的经验,为月球上的人类定居,甚至是殖民做准备。

Potatoes on the dark side of the moon

月球背面的土豆

This remarkable mission is part of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP), otherwise known as the Chang’e Program, named so in honor of the Chinese goddess of the moon. Previously, the Chang’e program had already sent two orbiters and one lander to the moon.

这次举世瞩目的登月任务是中国探月计划的一部分,也就是所谓的嫦娥计划,这个计划是以中国的月亮女神命名。此前,嫦娥计划已经向月球发射了两颗卫星和一颗着陆器。

In the first half of 2018, Chang’e 4 will initially launch a relay satellite aboard a Long March 5 rocket that will be positioned at the Earth-moon Lagrange point 2 (EM-L2).

2018年上半年,长征五号火箭将搭载嫦娥四号继星,将中继卫星发射至地月拉格朗日L2点(em-l2)。

This is where the satellite can essentially remain stationary relative to the bodies, since the Earth and Moon gravities cancel each other out. From this point, the communications satellite will relay data between controllers on Earth and the Chang’e 4 lander and rover slated to touch down on the moon’s far side — also known as the dark side of the moon since it faces away from Earth.

地月拉格朗日L2点,地球和月球重力相互抵消,所以卫星相对于地球和月球基本上可以保持相对静止状态。中继卫星帮助在地球与嫦娥4号着陆器以及月球车之间传递数据,。着陆器月球车将在月球阴暗面着陆,因为这面背对着地球,所以对地球来说是阴暗面。

The lander and rover will be launched together six months after the relay satellite is deployed at EM-L2. The lander will be equipped with various instruments designed to study the lunar environment and geology in detail, but also a mini-habitat comprised of insects and plants.

在中继卫星到达指定地点后六个月,中国将同时发射月球着陆器和月球车。月球着陆器将配备各种各样的仪器,用于研究月球的环境和地质情况,以及由昆虫和植物组成的小型生活环境。

“The container will send potatoes, arabidopsis seeds and silkworm eggs to the surface of the moon. The eggs will hatch into silkworms, which can produce carbon dioxide, while the potatoes and seeds emit oxygen through photosynthesis. Together, they can establish a simple ecosystem on the moon,” Zhang Yuanxun, chief designer of the lunar habitat, told the Chongqing Morning Post.

“容器里的马铃薯种子、拟南芥种子以及蚕卵将到达月球表面。蚕卵孵化成蚕,可以产生二氧化碳,而土豆和仲子可以通过光合作用释放氧气。这些东西放在一起月球上建立一个简单的生态系统,”月面微型生态圈首席设计师张元勋在接受重庆晨报采访时表示。

Last year, researchers grew potatoes in Mars-like conditions. Pulling the same stunt completely outside of Earth will be a whole different challenge which will be very intriguing to follow.

去年,研究人员在模拟火星的环境中种植土豆。而在地球之外的地方种植土豆将是完全不同的挑战,这将非常有趣。

The lander and rover will be deployed in the huge South Pole-Aitken Basin. This is the single-largest impact basin on the moon, measuring a staggering 2,500 km (1,600 miles) in diameter and 13 kilometers (8.1 miles) deep. Previously, missions like the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and India’s Chandrayaan-1 orbiter confirmed that the basin contains water ice, likely sourced from meteors and asteroids.

月球着陆器和月球车将降落在月南极区域巨大的艾肯盆地。这里是月球最大的撞击盆地,直径约2500公里(1600英里),深13公里(8.1英里)。此前,月球探测轨道飞行器(LRO)和印度月船一号飞行器已经确认该盆地有水冰,这些水可能来自流星和小行星。

This ice can survive in this form because the Aitken Basin is always shadowed. Once this finding was confirmed by NASA, the site has immediately been singled out as an important candidate for a possible lunar base. With this context in mind, the Chang’e 4 mission is valuable in the sense that it can help establish not only what the local terrain in the basin is like but also how the environment will influence organisms. For instance, gravity on the moon is just 16% that of Earth. Plants use gravity to decide the direction of their growth, and a strong or weak gravitational pull will also affect the height of plants.

因为艾特肯盆地总是被阴影笼罩,冰会以水冰的形式存在。一旦这一发现得到美国宇航局的证实,该地区马上就会成为月球基地的重要候选地。考虑到这个情况,嫦娥四号任务很有价值,因为它不仅可以帮助了解月球盆地的地形,还能帮助我们了解月球环境对生物的影响。例如,月球上的重力仅为地球的16%。植物利用重力来决定它们生长的方向,而强或弱的引力也会影响植物的高度。

If all of this sounds exciting, know that once the lunar habitat container is deployed at the end of this year, China plans to live stream the plants’ growth and development. Your message can also be among the 20,000 that will be sent into space via the relay satellite. You can submit it to the WeChat account ‘slecbj’ from Dec. 19, 2017, to March 6, 2018.

一旦今年年底,中国的“月面微型生态圈”容器被部署完毕,中国计划现场直播植物的生长和发育,这一切听起来令人兴奋。2017年12月19日至2018年3月6日,将你的寄语提交到微信账号:slecbj,你的信息也可以成为通过中继卫星发送到太空中的两万条寄语中的一条。