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Sakura from space blooms early

April 12, 2014, 10:16 UTC+3 TOKYO
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TOKYO, April 12. /ITAR-TASS/. A cherry tree grown from a pit that was in space burst into bloom in Japan six years earlier, Japanese media reported on Saturday.

The "space" tree surprising Japanese botanists grows near the Buddhist temple Ganjoji in the Gifu prefecture. In 2008, seeds of one of old sakuras growing near the temple were handed over to the Japanese Aerospace Research Agency, and astronaut Koichi Wakata, currently the commander on board the International Space Station, took the seeds with him to space. After ten months in space, the seeds were returned to Japan and planted into the ground in 2010.

Over the four years, the tree, called by Japanese reporters "space", has grown impressive four metres high and burst into bloom this spring for the first time. Such early blooming is rare. Usually sakuras bloom at the age of about ten years. Scientists could not explain why it happened, a botany professor at Tsukuba University said. Probably, the growth was fast after the influence of space radiation, he supposed.

Meanwhile, people in the temple see a sign in the early blooming. "It was symbolic. The tree was grown from a seed of a sakura aged more than 1,200 years and would be its successor in our garden," the temple rector said.

In 2011, marking the 50th anniversary since Yuri Gagarin’s legendary space flight, the United Nations General Assembly, on the initiative of the Russian Federation, declared April 12 as International Day of Human Space Flight.

Russia marks the memorable date as a national holiday for more than 50 years. In 1962, a few days before the first anniversary since Gagarin's space flight, the Soviet Union Supreme Council declared Cosmonautics Day.

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