NASA shows the first zinnia flower to bloom in space.
American astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted a photo on Jan. 16 of the first flower to survive from seed to maturity on the International Space Station .
“First ever flower grown in space makes its debut,” captioned Kelly, who is referred to as NASA’s autonomous gardener aboard the space station, with hashtags #SpaceFlower #zinnia and #YearInSpace.
The project titled “The Zinnia Care Guide for the On-Orbit Gardener” was created to help scientists study how plants react to being grown outside Earth, in preparation for the astronauts’ journey to Mars. However, the zinnias almost didn’t make it when Kelly tweeted in late December that the plants were drowning and covered in molds.
“When you have high humidity and wet surfaces leaves start dying, and become prime real estate for mould to grow,” explained Trent Smith, the Veggie project manager, in a statement released by NASA on Jan. 15.
So Kelly channeled his “inner Mark Watney” (from the film “The Martians”) and took extreme care of the zinnias. He cut off the molds, cleaned what remained and used fans to dry out the plants.
“You know, I think if we’re going to Mars, and we were growing stuff, we would be responsible for deciding when the stuff needed water,” Kelly said to the NASA ground team. “Kind of like in my backyard, I look at it and say ‘Oh, maybe I should water the grass today.’ I think this is how this should be handled.”
The zinnias aren’t the first plants to be grown out in space, though. The same team raised red romaine lettuce right after the Veggie plant growth facility was built in May 2014.
The Veggie plant growth system was created by Orbital Technologies Corp. (ORBITEC) in Madison, Wisconsin and was tested at the Kennedy Space Center before it was delivered to the space station by SpaceX in April 2014.