TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A cargo capsule carrying seeds from four plant species provided by Taiwan is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) after launching from the U.S. state of Florida on Sunday (Dec. 6).
The seeds were among supplies transported by SpaceX using its newly upgraded Dragon spacecraft. They were sent as part of the "Space Seeds for Asian Future" project initiated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to observe how the space environment affects germination.
According to the National Space Organization (NSPO), Taiwan is one of nine countries participating in the international research project to send seeds into space for approximately four months before bringing them back to be planted on Earth. Each participating nation can send seeds weighing up to 50 grams to the Japanese experimental module at ISS.
The NSPO said the four plant species the Taiwanese researchers had selected were Formosa lambsquarters, bell pepper, common sunflower, and Phalaenopsis equestris. It said the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute and National Chung Hsing University will be in charge of studying and growing the seeds once they return to Earth in April 2021, reported CNA.
Besides the germination project, several experiments were also on the Dragon capsule, including the first coronavirus drug research experiment in space. The European Space Agency previously explained that the experiment is aimed at improving the efficiency of antiviral drug remdesivir by understanding how the medicine interacts with its delivery substance cyclodextrin in microgravity.
Taiwan sends seeds of four plant species to outer space. (National Chung Hsing University photo)
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 6, 2020