Jim McMahon/Mapman®

China’s upcoming Moon mission could be one giant leap for . . . potatoes.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) will try to grow the starchy vegetable on the moon as part of its Chang’e 4 mission, set to launch next year. The unmanned spacecraft will attempt to land on the far side of the moon, something that no country has ever done. The far side of the moon is the side that can’t be seen from Earth. Three countries—China, the United States, and the former Soviet Union—have landed spacecraft on the near side of the moon, which faces Earth. (The U.S. was the first nation to send a human to the moon, in 1969.) 

Chang’e 4 will leave a mini ecosystem in a container on the lunar surface. Developed by scientists, it will include potatoes, potato seedlings, and silkworm eggs. The plan: Once worms hatch from the eggs, they’ll provide carbon dioxide for the potatoes and seedlings to grow. In turn, the potatoes will emit the oxygen the worms will need to survive. 

The project may help scientists figure out how to grow food on the moon, which could allow humans to live there someday. Sending astronauts to the moon is something China hopes to achieve by 2036.

The goal, says Wu Yanhua of CNSA, is for China to be “among the major space powers of the world.”