After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a rapidly escalating Space Race, culminating with Americans landing on the moon – one of the greatest achievements in human history. The excitement surrounding space isn’t quite what it was back then, but that doesn’t mean incredible things aren’t still happening outside of the Earth’s atmosphere – incredible things like “space mangoes.”
After more than three decades of experimentation, Chinese scientists claim they have made a breakthrough in the country’s space breeding program: Mango seeds sent on a 33-day trip aboard China’s Shenzhou-11 spacecraft reportedly spawned cells that researchers have been able to grow into new tissues, according to China Daily. “We have bred over 1,000 jars of mango seeds after they returned from Shenzhou-11,” Peng Longrong, head of China’s Space Mango Breeding Program, told CCTV. His team is now analyzing which of these tissues might make for a genetically-superior new type of mango. “Once the test is successful, it will be the first of its kind in the world.”
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The hope with space breeding is that forcing seeds to grow in the harshness of space – facing elements like radiation, sterile conditions and zero gravity – will trigger the plants to mutate, spawning new, advantageous genetic traits far more quickly than they would on Earth. “Space mangoes are expected to be insect-resistant, of higher quality and provide more output," Longrong was quoted as saying.
Still, CCTV describes any forthcoming “space mangoes” as “far from being ready for public consumption.” It’s one thing to discover an awesome new type of mango; it’s another to grow it on a commercial scale. But regardless of when we’ll be chowing down on interplanetary produce, this latest news means we’re now closer to eating space fruit than ever before. Let’s just hope it tastes better than astronaut ice cream.