Luo Dengqiang, a farmer in Chongqing Municipality of southwest China, recently signed an agreement with the Beijing Space Satellite Application Company on sending lotus seeds to the outer space.
Under the agreement, Luo will send 3,000 lotus seeds into the space in coming five years in a bid to acquire genetically transformed lotus seeds.
Luo, 53, will thus become the first individual in China to be involved in space-breeding business.
In 1992, Luo rented 500 mu (or 33 hectares) of land in Baoding Township of Dazu County, and turned it into a holiday resort with floral plants and recreational facilities.
As the resort, named Dazu Lotus Mountain Villa, includes a pond with 526 kinds of lotus flowers, it becomes a popular site, attracting numerous holiday-goers. The farm earns 600,000 yuan (about 50,000 US dollars) annually by exporting lotus seeds to Japan, Singapore and some other overseas markets.
In 1998, it occurred to Luo that he could send local lotus seeds to the outer space when he learned that plant's seeds may develop genetical changes or even have their quality improved under zero gravity in the space.
For years, Luo has been annoyed by the fact that lotus flower only blossoms in a specific time, which makes his mountain villa a seasonal tourist site. The ambitious man wants to lure tourists all year around, with lotus flower blossoming in four seasons.
When the Beijing-based space company learned that a man wants to book a room in a satellite or a space vehicle, it offered Luo a good price for the space shipment, 100 yuan (about 12 US dollars) per seed, compared with the normal price of 300 yuan (about 36 US dollars) per seed.
The whole space-breeding program costs him 4 million yuan (about 493,210 US dollars), including the shipment charges and the cost of building a breeding base.
The first batch of the seeds, numbering 150, were delivered to the Beijing company in June and they are expected to return home by the end of July, after traveling in the orbit for a month. Another satellite plan will Luo's 130 seeds to the outer place.
When China's first manned space vehicle Shenzhou V toured in the space, it carried over 40 kinds of species, but all of them were paid by state-owned companies, according to Li Jinhong, an official of the Beijing company. "Luo is the first individual to send seeds to the space," he said.