Pakistan gets space-flown seeds from China's Shenzhou 14 mission (video)

Seeds sent along with a Chinese astronaut mission have been returned to Pakistan following a six-month-long stay aboard the Tiangong space station.

Pakistan sent sets of seeds from seven medicinal plant species to Tiangong aboard China's Shenzhou 14 spacecraft in June last year. The experiment sought to bring about beneficial mutations in the seeds' genes by exposing them to cosmic radiation and microgravity

Shenzhou 14 and its crew returned to Earth on Dec. 4. A ceremony celebrating the return of plant seeds from Tiangong was held in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Feb. 8. 

Related: Weightlessness and its effect on astronauts

China's Shenzhou 14 crewed mission launches atop a Long March 2F rocket on June 4, 2022.

China's Shenzhou 14 crewed mission launches toward the country's Tiangong space station atop a Long March 2F rocket on June 4, 2022. (Image credit: CCTV+)

The seeds are to aid Pakistan's research into developing more environmentally tolerant seeds. Pakistani scientists planned to plant these seeds and ordinary seeds at the same time to conduct comparative research on genes and growth characteristics, according to CCTV.

China has itself long sent seeds into space in an effort to develop new varieties of crops with greater yields and adaptability.

The exercise is an example of international cooperation on the Tiangong space station, which will soon expand to seeing international experiments being sent to the three-module orbital outpost through a joint China-United Nations program.

Beyond this, Pakistan has previously stated its intent to send its astronauts to Tiangong, though the Chinese side has yet to publicly confirm this will take place. The European Space Agency won't be sending its astronauts to China's space station anytime soon however, despite training exchanges in recent years.

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.