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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
China hatches space chickens
Shenzhou landing, AP
A Shenzhou capsule will eventually carry people into orbit
Three chickens have hatched in China from eggs that spent almost a week in orbit in March aboard the unmanned Shenzhou III spacecraft, Chinese state media says.

The animals, one female and two male, hatched from nine eggs, which travelled 108 times around the Earth on a seven-day flight that ended on 1 April.

Chinese scientists will study the chickens to see if their biology has been affected in any way by the time their eggs spent in space.

They are well-suited to this end, being of a particularly pure native Chinese bloodline, Xinhua news agency quoted the head researcher, Yang Ning, as saying.

He said the chicken's hatching was also evidence of the sophistication of the life support systems on board the spacecraft, the third of China's unmanned vessels launched in preparation for its manned programme.

He said it was fortunate that chickens of both sexes hatched, because this would allow researchers to breed them and study the offspring.

See also:

01 Apr 02 | Sci/Tech
China's spacecraft returns
25 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Chinese launch capsule
18 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Space animals make safe return
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