World’s first space-exposed mango cells survive

China Central Television (CCTV) – The mango embryos that spent 33 days orbiting the Earth on the China’s Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft have survived and grew brand new cells at a lab in south China’s Hainan Province.

“These are some materials that were once brought to space for mutation breeding. We cannot call them seedlings now as they’re just embryos,” said Wang Songbiao, head of a research team with the space mango breeding program.

The breeding program was jointly carried out by the Hainan State Farms Agribusiness Group and the South Subtropical Crops Research Institute, subject to the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences.

“We have bred over 1,000 jars of mango seeds after they returned from Shenzhou-11. Once the test is successful, it will be the first of its kind in the world,” said Peng Longrong, head of the space mango breeding program with the Hainan State Farms Agribusiness Group.

The mango seeds were exposed to radiation, various cabin pressures and weightlessness during the space journey and gene mutations have taken place. Researchers will find out what changes have taken place and keep those variants that sustained improvements in jars to breed them into space mangoes.

“These space mangoes can prevent pests. This is very important. They also help improve quality and yields so that people around China can eat mangoes without any safety concerns,” Peng added.

China launched the Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft on October 17, 2016 to transport two astronauts to the Tiangong-2 space laboratory. The core tasks were to test rendezvous and docking technologies for the country’s planned space station, as well as conduct scientific research and test engineering experiments.

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