12/08/2012, 00.00
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Beijing wants to grow fresh vegetables on Mars and the moon

Chinese researchers announce the successful trials during which four kinds of vegetables were grown in a 300 cubic metre cabin that could be built and used on extraterrestrial bases. China is planning a mission to the moon as well.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China is preparing to grow fresh vegetables in space, on Mars or the moon. The red planet and the earth's satellite appear to be the ideal place to grow environmentally sound, high quality products, this after researchers successfully completed a preliminary test in Beijing, state media reported. Despite food scandals involving melamine-tainted baby formula and carcinogenic food, China's food research is focusing on "extraterrestrial" high quality food production.

Four kinds of vegetables were grown in an "ecological life support system", a 300 cubic metre cabin which will allow astronauts to develop their own stocks of air, water and food whilst on space missions, Xinhua news agency said on Monday.

The system, which relies on plants and algae, is "expected to be used in extra-terrestrial bases on the moon or Mars", the report noted.

Participants in the experiment could "harvest fresh vegetables for meals", Deng Yibing, a researcher at Beijing's Chinese Astronaut Research and Training Centre, is quoted as saying in Xinhua.

Astronauts may get fresh rather than freeze-dried vegetables and oxygen supplies by gardening in extra-terrestrial bases in the future.

This is China's first experiment of this kind. Although the world's second largest economy and awash with cash, China is still light-years behind the United States and Russia (heir to the former Soviet Union), the real masters of space today.

Still, China has said it will land an exploratory craft on the moon for the first time next year, as part of an ambitious space programme that includes a long-term plan for a manned moon landing, although it did not give a time frame.

China's first astronaut Yang Liwei said last month that Chinese astronauts may start a branch of China's ruling Communist Party in space. It "would also be the 'highest' of its kind in the world."

The astronaut was launched into space and orbited the earth aboard the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft in 2003.

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