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First cotton from far side of the moon displayed in China.

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A first ever sprout of cotton seeds on the far side of the moon.

According to China’s state television, photos sent back by its Chang’e -4 luna probe on Tuesday shows that cotton seeds carried by the probe have sprouted.

The Chang’e-4 project had officially shifted to the scientific exploration stage days before.



A team of scientists from the Chongqing University in southwest China sent a small biological payload aboard the probe, which landed on the lunar surface on Jan. 3.

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Weighing below three kilograms, the test payload includes six organisms including seeds of cotton, potatoes, Arabidopsis and rapeseeds, as well as fruit fly pupa and yeast.

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The latest photos show that the cotton shoots are growing well. This is the first plant shoot that grows on the moon after experiencing severe environmental tests such as low gravity, strong radiation and high temperature.

“Although it is a biological payload, it laid a foundation and technological support for our next step, that is, to build a lunar base for living,” said Xie Gengxin, chief designer of the biological experiment payload, Chang’e-4 lunar mission.
The screening of biological species in this experiment involves very strict requirements.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials also claim that due to the extreme conditions of the lunar surface, animals and plants should be able to withstand high temperatures, freezing cold, radiation and be anti-interference.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Cameroon crisis: Ambazonia separatists get life sentences

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A leader of Cameroon’s separatist movement, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, and nine of his followers have been given life sentences by a military court in the capital, Yaoundé.

They were convicted of rebellion, among other charges.

Their lawyers accused the judge of bias and withdrew from the proceedings.

The English-speaking separatists argue they are marginalised by the bureaucracy and school system in the majority French-speaking country.

The defendants had been arrested in Nigeria in January 2018 and deported back to Cameroon.

The court session on the verdicts, which started on Monday, went on until 05:30 (04:30 GMT) local time Tuesday morning, reports the BBC’s Leocadio Bongben.

By that time the defence lawyers had already withdrawn from the proceedings but continued to stay in the court as spectators.

Defence barrister Joseph Fru said there were irregularities in the proceedings, including the judge’s biases, but the military court rejected his evidence.

The long list of charges included rebellion, complicity in terrorism, financing terrorism, revolution, insurrection, hostility against the state, propagation of fake news and lack of identification.

The court also ordered the 10 to pay a fine of 250bn CFA francs ($422m; £359m) to the government for civil damages and 12bn CFA francs for court costs.

What’s happening in Cameroon?

Among the 10 who were convicted was Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, the leader of the so-called Governing Council of Ambazonia – the name separatists have given to Cameroon’s Anglophone North-West and South-West regions.

Cameroon’s English-speakers say they have been marginalised for decades by the central government and the French-speaking majority.

The current crisis started in 2016 when lawyers and teachers went on strike over the use of French in courts and schools.

In October 2017, activists declared autonomy over the two English-speaking regions – a move rejected by Cameroon’s President Paul Biya.

Some took up arms in 2017 and the crisis has forced more than 500,000 people from their homes.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Saudi Arabia implements end to travel restrictions for Saudi women: agency

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Reuters – Saudi Arabia has begun implementing previously announced changes that allow adult women to travel without permission and to exercise more control over family matters, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.

“The passports and civil status departments and their branches in all regions of the kingdom have started to implement the amendments stipulated in the royal decree,” the report said, citing an interior ministry source.

Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Gareth Jones

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