Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s Shenzhou-14 crew is engaged in a plant cultivation experiment onboard the country’s in-construction space station.

The plants cultivated in the Wentian lab module are growing well, said the Chinese Academy of Sciences on Monday. The goal of the plant cultivation experiment is to study the whole life cycle of rice in space, and explore possible ways to use space environmental factors to control plant flowering to maximize plant productivity in a relatively small sealed space.

Current configuration of China’s in-construction space station.
Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

According to China Central Television (CCTV) the plant cultivation experiment was launched on July 29. The trios of taikonauts — Chen Dong, and Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe – take care of seeds of arabidopsis thaliana and rice, which later successfully germinated.

The arabidopsis seedlings now have grown four leaves, the tall rice seedlings have grown to about 14 centimeters high, and the dwarf rice is 4-5 centimeters high and in good condition.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab


Sample harvesting

“The preliminary plan is that around late September, the taikonauts will collect the plant samples for the first time, which means a harvest of the samples before the Shenzhou-14 crew returns to earth,” said Zhao Liping, a leading designer of the Wentian lab module.

Zhao told CCTV that the plant samples will be handled and reserved in rigorous environment, so that scientists can conduct further research on them.

“As for the experiment on plants launched with the cabin, once the plants are collected, they will be handled in the glove box by the taikonauts, before they are placed in a temperature zone of minus 80 degrees Celsius. Then the seeds will be collected by the taikonauts, and placed in a temperature zone of four degrees Celsius, and the taikonauts will put them in a cold pack with passive life protection before returning to earth, so that the scientists can conduct more in-depth studies,” said Zhao.

For a video on the space plant experiment, go to:

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