TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Seeds from Taiwan that were sent to the International Space Station (ISS) in December have returned to Earth and will be sent to National Chung Hsing University (NCHU) soon, the National Applied Research Laboratories (NAR Labs) announced on Friday (Sept. 10).
The specimens contributed by Taiwan include Taiwan red quinoa, moth orchid, bell pepper, and sunflower seeds. They were launched into space on Dec. 7, 2020, along with 10 types of seeds from seven other countries and stored in Japan’s Kibo Experiment Module, per NAR Labs.
The Japanese Experiment Module on the ISS is nicknamed "Kibo," Japanese for "Hope." (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency photo)
On July 9, the seeds returned to Earth and began being returned to their countries of origin. Taiwan’s seeds were mailed out on Thursday (Sept. 9) and are expected to arrive at NCHU soon.
Once they arrive, NAR Labs said NCHU will work with various senior high, junior high, and elementary schools as students plant the seeds and monitor their growth, which will be recorded and presented internationally as scientific reports.
The seeds were sent into orbit as part of the “Asia Herb in Space” (AHiS) program, and NAR Labs joined NCHU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Council of Agriculture’s Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) to study how the microgravity and high-radiation environment in space affects plant growth.
Asian Herb in Space program logo. (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency photo)
According to NAR Labs, in order to prepare the schools and students for germination, NCHU held an online “Taiwan Seeds Space Travel Program Promotion and Education Camp” on Aug. 31 to teach students of various ages about the plants as well as proper ways to manage and observe their growth.
Out of the over 100 teams that signed up for the program, 10 high school teams were selected to raise the moth orchids and 30 junior high teams will be given the bell pepper and Taiwan red quinoa seeds, said NAR Labs. As there are very few sunflower seeds, experiments on those will be conducted by NAR Labs researchers, the lab added.
UDN reported that the 41 select elementary school teams will receive basil seeds from the AHiS program that did not go to space. These will serve as the control group for basil that Japanese astronauts have planted on board the ISS.
In addition to NCHU, various schools have taken steps to prepare their own students. While Taipei’s Municipal Xing'an Elementary School has been promoting its “Little Farm Program,” Youhua Bilingual Junior High School plans to let students practice planting regular seeds before the space seeds arrive.