China has flown vines into orbit on its new ‘space palace’ laboratory, Tiangong-2, to experiment with vines’ resistance to drought and cold weather.

China launched Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir vines into space on a rocket during its mid-autumn festival celebrations on 15 September.

As reported on DecanterChina.com, The young vines were onboard China’s new ‘space palace’, the Tiangong-2 laboratory, which was originally set for blast off in 2015.

It is part of China’s manned space programme. See CCTV footage of the launch below.

Chinese scientists hope that growing the vines in space for a short time will trigger mutations that may make the plants more suitable for the harsh climate in some of the China’s emerging vineyard regions.

In particular, scientists want to see whether genetic mutations in space make the vines more resistant to cold, drought and some viruses.

Chinese growers in some areas, such as Ningxia, have to bury their vines in winter to protect them from freezing temperatures.

The vines came from a nursery based in Ningxia’s Helan Mountain East region, one of China’s most renowned quality wine regions, reported Ningxia local media.

The nursery is owned by the Chenggong Group, which has been importing vines from France’s Mercier Group since 2013.

In October, China will send two male astronauts to Tiangong-2 via the Shenzhou 11 spaceflight to perform research for 30 days, according to China National Space Administration.

When the vines return to earth, they will be compared to a control group in  the Ningxia nursery.

Editing by Chris Mercer

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