For The Very First Time Ever Rice Has Been Successfully Grown In Space

- Earth is not the only place where humans are looking to grow sustainable food sources. 

In order for people to go on long-term space missions, they will have to have the ability to grow their own food. It's not possible for astronauts to pack enough food to sustain a mission to Mars (via China Daily). 

On Monday China announced success in cultivating rice on board the Tiangong space station. 

Moreover, Chinese astronauts have had other successes with growing food plants in space. 

Peas, dwarf wheat, and leafy greens were successfully brought to fruition on the International Space Station in 2014 (per USA Rice). Chinese astronauts have been working on growing rice off-planet since 2016.

What's significant about this experiment is the end goal: to grow rice from seed through its full cycle to seeding. 

So far so good, the far the plants are prospering. Two types of rice were cultivated, a tall stalk and a dwarf variety. 

Both appear to have grown at the same rate as they would on earth (via University Today).

Space rice

rice on its stems BJ.Photo/Shutterstock
When the seeds are harvested, astronauts won't be making risotto with them. 

A grain of rice is the seed of the plant, and the space grains will be returned to Earth where scientists will study the effect of microgravity on the plant's flowering stage, according to China Daily. 

How well a plant can flower is an important determiner of its yield. Furthermore, rice and other seeds have accompanied Chinese astronauts into space to facilitate mutations that will produce better on Earth. 

Heralded as "space rice," the experimental seeds have been characterized as a possible way to ensure food security for China's 1.4 billion people (per Jaran Josh).

This isn't rice's first time on a space mission. Freeze-dried chicken and rice were prepared for consumption in space during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, which famously featured Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin. 

The National Air and Space Museum maintains a leftover packet from the historic event.

Few of us are likely to eat rice on another planet. But in the article "What Living in Space Teaches Us about Living on Earth," PhD and author David Munns wrote that "to live in space, rather than just continue to be tourists, is analogous to continuing to live on Earth rather than just treating our planet as visitors" (via Environment and Society Portal). 

Perhaps space rice, whether grown on earth or onboard a space station, will cultivate a better understanding of our home planet.

writter by: ABBY SMITH


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