Hong Kong schools

Their parents went to space, but these silkworms are settling for a secondary school in Hong Kong

Descendants of silkworms taken aboard manned Chinese space mission donated to Tseung Kwan O school that originally suggested the idea

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 October, 2017, 8:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 02 October, 2017, 11:02pm

A dozen silkworms whose parents took a spin around the planet have been donated to a Hong Kong secondary school.

Last October, six of the insects were taken on-board the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft, China’s sixth manned space mission and its longest to date, which saw two astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, spend 30 days orbiting in the Tiangong-2 space laboratory.

The out-of-this-world experiment to study how the silkworms transformed in a weightless environment had been suggested by pupils at Christian and Missionary Alliance Sun Kei Secondary School in Tseung Kwan O. The initial results showed that the silk spun by worms with extraterrestrial experience was stronger than those on Earth.

On Monday, the astronauts donated the descendants of these “space silkworms” to the school, who will study them to see if the favourable variation will be inherited. Chow Wing-hei, a physics teacher at the school and in charge of the silkworm project, said pupils would take turns to care for the silkworms in the school’s laboratory.

To keep them alive in Hong Kong, the China Manned Space Agency gave the pupils instructions on how to take care of the larvae of space silkworms, including a suitable temperature, humidity and food.

The school’s silkworm project was accepted by China’s space programme after it won the 2015 space experiment design competition organised by Hong Kong’s Home Affairs Bureau and the China Manned Space Agency.