Space mission proves fatal for ant-stronauts

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 October, 2004, 12:00am

A mainland satellite that took four ants on an 18-day journey orbiting the Earth returned home on Friday, Xinhua reported.

But unfortunately, the ants - a queen, a king, a worker and a soldier - did not survive their mission aboard the recoverable satellite.

Nevertheless, Xinhua said 30 ant eggs of various ages on board the satellite had been successfully recovered.

It also hailed the recovery of the satellite as another success for China's space industry.

According to the company behind the experiment, it marked an important step for research on heredity and the variation of species in space.

'The remaining eggs are quite valuable. Their physical, chemical and biological changes [during their journey] will be an important issue for scientific research,' said Ma Hong , president of Sichuan Gold Ants Biological Technology Development.

The edible ants had been carefully selected and provided with specially prepared food and accommodation on the satellite.

The satellite was the 20th to return since China started launching recoverable satellites to conduct research in 1975.