Chinese astronauts successfully grow rice in space

(ORDO NEWS) — Rice is one of the main cereal crops in the world. It is regularly consumed by more than half of the world’s population. And now it has been grown in microgravity aboard China’s new space lab.

In July, the Wentian laboratory module of China’s Tiangong space station was launched. One of the eight experiments conducted was the cultivation of rice in microgravity.

Rice usually grows to 90-120 cm in 4 months. The stems on the Wentian have not yet completed their full cycle of maturation since the experiment began in July, but they appear to be keeping up with their Earth counterparts nonetheless.

As part of the experiment, two types of rice were grown. In the first month of growth, the tall variety reached almost 30 centimeters, and the dwarf variety reached 5 cm. Both varieties grow in the laboratory at the same rate as on Earth.

Rice is not the only plant involved in the experiment. Scientists have grown Tal’s rezukhovidka (Arabidopsis thaliana). It is a flowering plant commonly used to study genetic mutations, which can be especially useful when conducting experiments in space.

China has launched rice into space before. Prior to this, Chinese scientists sent rice along with the Chang’e 5 lunar exploration mission in November 2020. Other cultures also flew into space with Chinese spacecraft. Research has focused on increasing the yield of these crops.

Currently, the experiment is proceeding at a rapid pace, and scientists hope to obtain seeds that they can bring back to Earth and study. The researchers want to find out if there will be any significant differences between conventional rice and microgravity-grown rice.

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