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China to Test Rice Seeds in Int'l Space Station
China is to send a kilogram of rice seed grain to the International Space Station (ISS) next year to test how they are affected by conditions in space.

This experiment, which will be China's first with the aid of the ISS, is a research project concerning space seed cultivation conducted by the prestigious Harbin Polytechnical University in China's northernmost Heilongjiang Province.

Chinese scientists will closely monitor possible changes in the seeds in outer space as they adjust to zero gravity and heavy particles, hoping to accumulate valuable information on upgrading rice varieties.

Before turning to the ISS for space experiments, Chinese scientists have used satellites, which have no life-support systems, and space vehicles, which can support life, to carry seeds trains of rice, maize and flowers, with the former able to stay in outer space for just half a month and the latter only seven or eight days.

However, the seeds in the ISS will stay long enough to fully "feel" the impact of the space, said a teacher participating in there search project.

The ISS is actively seeking cooperative partners to share the enormous costs of the project.

Blaming construction delays, the participating nations have contributed US$40 billion to date, far more than the initial budget of US$8.3 billion. It is expected to cost another US$65 billion to operate the ISS in the next 10 to 15 years.

The European Union, Japan and Canada have all hinted to China their wish to rent ISS room to Chinese scientific institutions, which would help recover some of the huge investment.

(Xinhua News Agency December 4, 2002)


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