"“Once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially ‘colonized’ it.” This line
from the character Mark Watney captures one of the most important moments in
the story The Martian
, when the stranded astronaut finally learns how to
sustain himself over the long term—and legally stake his claim to the planet.
In the real world, China recently reached a similar milestone in the human
habitation of space, with the announcement by the Chinese Academy of Sciences
that rice seeds had been harvested on the Chinese Tiangong space station. This
achievement represents an especially large step forward for China’s greater
plans towards permanent human settlement on the Moon and beyond.
The future crops were brought to space as seeds, and spent 120 days germinating
and growing on the space station. Eventually, the crops produced their own
seeds, and the samples were returned to the Space Application Engineering and
Technology Center in Beijing, as part of the end phase of the Shenzhou-14
mission to the Tiangong space station. The crops and new seeds are being
analyzed to determine their viability and what effects developed from a full
life cycle in space.
The cultivation of food in space is part of a larger push by the Chinese space
program toward a lunar base. Although China entered the space race in 1970 by
launching the Dong Fang Hong 1 satellite, it wasn’t until 2003 that China
launched its first crewed space flight. Not long after, China set its sights on
the Moon, achieving a year-and-a-half-long orbit from November 2007 to April
2009. In 2011, China launched the first phase of its space station program, the
Tiangong-1. The station achieved its goal of continuous orbital habitation just
a few months ago with its completion in November. Eventually, the information
gathered from a permanently manned space station, along with the crops grown on
it, will contribute to the next step in the burgeoning new space race between
the United States and China: human settlement of the Moon."
Via Future Crunch
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics