China launches its 'seed satellite'
By New Scientist Space and AFP China has launched a satellite carrying fruit and vegetable seeds as part of a plan to help develop space-enhanced produce to feed the country’s 1.3 billion people, state press reported. A Long March 2C rocket launched the recoverable Shijian-8 satellite on Saturday. The mission will expose 2000 seeds to cosmic radiation and microgravity, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The data gathered aboard the “seed satellite” will enable scientists to try to cultivate high-yield and high-quality plants, the China National Space Administration said, according to the report. China has been experimenting with space-bred seeds for many years, and says that rice and wheat exposed to space later offered increased yields. However, independent researchers previously contacted by New Scientist have expressed scepticism regarding these claims (see Space seed idea falls on stony ground). The Shijian-8 satellite, the first dedicated specifically to seeds, was the 23rd recoverable satellite launched by China,