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.
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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 (opens in new tab).
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 (opens in new tab) 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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