China ponders sending tortoises to moon, will animal lovers resent?

Tortoise Pixabay

From US space agency NASA to India's ISRO, scientists from all around the world never fail to surprise us when it comes to a mission related to the moon. In this space race, the Chinese space agency has been rapidly catching up to the likes of other countries and now it is thinking of sending tortoises to the far side of the moon as part of its Chang'e-4 mission.

Sending animals to space is not new or surprising for China, as the country launched mice, rats and dogs between 1964 and 1966. Later in 1968, Zond 5, which was a spacecraft of not Chinese but Soviet Zond Program, became the first spacecraft to circle the moon while carrying a payload of two Russian tortoises, along with plants, meal-worms, seeds, bacteria and wine flies.

Recently one of the Chinese scientists has revealed that they were planning to send tortoises to earth's natural satellite, but unfortunately, it was cancelled as the astronomers understood that they would only have enough oxygen to keep them alive for 20 days, which is the shortest possible time to complete the mission.

Xie Gengxin, from the Technology Research Institute at Chongqing University, was interviewed by technology magazine IEEE Spectrum, as he was assigned to design the biological experiment onboard Chang'e-4, which was launched on 2018 December.

During the interview, the interview Xie said the team initially expressed an idea to send a small species of tortoise to the moon. But the issue occurred after the scientists realized that the weight of Chang'e-4 probe demands that the weight of the experiment should not cross three kilograms (6.6lbs).

"Even though it is very meaningful to choose tortoise, the oxygen inside the payload can only be used for about 20 days for turtles," he further added.

If this mission was launched and turned out as a success, then it could have provided important information on how animals react to the gravitational condition on the moon and these findings could boost future space missions.

But it doesn't mean that China has ruled out their plan to send animals on a future lunar mission, as scientists are hoping to send more biological payloads if they have a larger payload allocation, said Xie. It remains to be seen how animal lovers react to the news as inevitably these tortoises will be on their fatal space journey.

Recently China proved that even though US and Russia hold the top place in terms of space dominance, they are not far behind. As per the report, China received success while attempting to grow plants on the moon. At least one cotton seed has sprouted a pair of leaves on the lunar surface. A 3D reconstruction based on image processing and data analysis showed two cotton leaves have grown in the Chang'e-4 lander.

This article was first published on October 8, 2019
Related topics : Space