Plant on China's Shenzhou XV spaceship begins growing
China Daily

The Arabidopsis thaliana plant boarding on China's Shenzhou XV manned spaceship has begun growing, the China Science and Technology Daily reported on Monday.

Rice samples brought back to Earth by the Shenzhou-14 return capsule, December 4, 2022. (Photo: CAS)

The Shenzhou XV spaceship was launched at 11:08 pm on Nov 29, 2022. About 20 hours later, Chinese astronauts placed the Arabidopsis thaliana in a biological incubator in the life and ecological experiment cabinet inside the Wentian lab module of China's space station.

"We are using the Arabidopsis thaliana grown in microgravity to explore how the space microgravity environment regulates plant cell structure and function," said Cai Weiming, a researcher with the Center for Excellence in Molecular Plant Sciences under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The researchers made preparations on Earth for more than six years, and are hoping that the in-orbit experiment will promote the improvement of crop plant shape and help to increase crop yield.

During the space experiment, some Arabidopsis genes involved in gravity response will be modified and tagged, according to the newspaper. The researchers expect to study the genes' behavior in the special microgravity environment, in order to better understand their biological functions.

In the following 30 to 50 days, they will conduct automatic real-time monitoring of the morphology and development of wild, various mutant and transgenic plants in space microgravity, said Cai.

When the plant samples return to Earth, researchers will systematically study the effects of space microgravity on plant biology, through the analysis of omics and the correlation analysis of simulated microgravity experiments on the ground.