China Is Sending Grape Vines Into Space To Make Better Wine
Wine grapes are notoriously fickle. That’s why you find great wines in places like Sonoma instead of Siberia. But China has just unleashed a new plan it believes may create more resilient vines for its vino: Launch those suckers into space.
According to Decanter China, Chinese scientists included Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir vines as part of its recent Tiangong-2 space laboratory launch. The scientists hope that space radiation might cause these vines to mutate which, in turn, could help them survive the harsher conditions in some of China’s less forgiving nascent wine regions by evolving new resistance to coldness, drought and viruses. Upon returning from orbit, the vines will be compared to a control group on the ground to see if any beneficial mutations occurred.
Developing more robust wines would be a coup for Chinese wine regions such as Ningxia and Xinjiang which, as TIME points out, not only suffer from dry climates, but also can get so cold in the winter that farmers frequently resort to burying their vines to keep them from freezing over.
The vines likely won’t show results for some time, but if the space radiation plan doesn’t pan out, maybe trying using your new space lab to tie a rope around the Earth and pull it slightly closer to the sun? Call me, China! We can make this work!