In July, China added the first of two laboratory modules to the Tiangong space station. At 23 tons, Wentian is reportedly heavier than any other single-module spacecraft currently in space. It’s designed for science and biology, including plant experiments. The second laboratory segment (Mengtian) is due to launch in October. Once it has docked, Tiangong will be complete.
The Wentian launch included seeds for Arabidopsis and two varieties of rice. The taikonauts (Chinese astronauts) on Tiangong installed the plant experiments in the life experimental ecology module on 28 July, and they were initialized the following day by researchers on the ground.
According to Global Times, the Arabidopsis plants now have leaves, the tall-grain rice seedlings are 30 high, and the short-grain rice is 5-6cm tall. The plan is for the plants to complete an entire lifecycle, from seed to seed, which would be a first for rice in microgravity. Then samples will be frozen and returned to Earth for analysis.
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