Pakistani girl's letter to Chinese astronaut sparks conversation on space

Misbah Saba Malik
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, February 16, 2023
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by Misbah Saba Malik

ISLAMABAD, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Aasiya Ismail, a 16-year-old 10th standard student from Pakistan, had a lot of questions in mind when she came to know that Chinese astronauts will take Pakistani seeds to China's space station for space breeding.

"Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) asked students of different schools to write letters to the astronauts who will help Pakistan bring a revolution in the agriculture sector by taking our very own seeds to space. I had many queries, but the most intriguing was about their role to end poverty," Ismail told Xinhua.

China helped Pakistan take seven herbal seeds to the Chinese space station for space breeding by exposing them to cosmic radiation and microgravity to mutate their genes, and the PSF asked students to write a letter to Chinese astronauts in order to enhance their interest in science.

The teenager spent a month writing the letter after having researched about space breeding of seeds and the Chinese space station.

The letter was selected among all the letters received by the foundation for the astronauts.

In talks with Xinhua, Ismail said that as a teenager she feels scared for her future due to climate change-triggered food security challenges, so she asked the astronaut, "will space seeds end poverty and hunger in the world, because the countries like Pakistan are currently experiencing an economic and environmental crisis, which is feared to result in hunger, poverty, and indigence?"

Ismail got answers to all her questions at a recently held event to mark the successful return of the seeds here, during which a Chinese astronaut told her about the Chinese space station and the importance of Chinese seeds to meet the food security challenge.

"The mutant seeds may be screened to breed new varieties that are resistant to drought and waterlogging ... after long time efforts, China is now able to develop a wheat with denser plants, more ears, and higher yields," the astronaut told Ismail through a recorded video played at the event.

He also urged the 16-year-old and other young students to work hard and devote themselves to studies and in the future to play their part in the China-Pakistan cooperation.

Talking to Xinhua, Samina Saeed, a physics teacher of Ismail, said that the Pakistani student's interaction with the Chinese astronaut would motivate other students to study deeply about science and about Pak-China friendship.

The seeds were launched into outer space carried by the Shenzhou-14 spaceship on June 5, 2022, and after six months of flying, returned to the earth with the Shenzhou-14 astronaut crew on Dec. 4 last year.

Atia-tul-Wahab, a professor at the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences, University of Karachi, said her institute proposed the government to send the herbs' seeds to space.

"We sent some grains to the space and kept the same quantity in our laboratory. Now upon their return, we will closely examine them and do their tests at our laboratory. Then both seed varieties will be sowed separately to see the end results through comparison," she told Xinhua.

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