NASA's Scott Kelly Reveals the "First-Ever Flower Grown in Space"

Wednesday, 20 January 2016 - 9:26AM
Space
Wednesday, 20 January 2016 - 9:26AM
NASA's Scott Kelly Reveals the "First-Ever Flower Grown in Space"
Scott Kelly, the first American to spend a full year living in space, has just achieved another landmark accomplishment. Kelly recently tweeted a photo of his zinnia plant in full bloom, writing "First ever flower grown in space makes its debut!" 


The flowers were planted after two rounds of lettuce (the second crop of which astronauts even got to eat), and managed by NASA's Kjell Lindgren. When Lindgren headed back to Earth, Kelly took over the plants' upkeep. They had already begun to show signs of excess humidity and root flooding, and had even started to grow mold. At one point, Kelly told the mission team back home that he wanted permission to water the crops as he saw fit. The team agreed, and Kelly became the first-ever autonomous space farmer. He slowly nursed the flower back to life, joking on twitter that he needed to channel his "inner Mark Watney", the fictional character in "The Martian" who successfully grew potatoes on Mars. 


This botanical adventure isn't just for show, though. These space flowers represent NASA's Veggie Project, the first concentrated effort to grow flowering plants in a controlled space environment. The hope is that experience with plants like zinnias, long-lasting flowers that are also edible, will help astronauts learn how to grow more traditionally edible flowering plants, like tomatoes. And trimmings taken along the way will be passed back to scientists on Earth, who will then be able to design better growing equipment and procedures. All of this could lead to astronauts being able to rely on fresh crops during long-term spaceflight missions.


Opening quote
"I hope to see Veggie's success as the first step in food production that will allow astronauts on the space station to enjoy fresh food," said Brian Onate, who helped build the plant growth system before it was sent into space.
Closing quote


Opening quote
"In future missions, the importance of plants will likely increase, given crew's limited connection to Earth," adds Alexandra Whitmire of NASA's Human Research Program. "While not all crew members may enjoy taking care of plants, for many, having this option if beneficial. Studies from other isolated and confined environments... demonstrate the importance of plants in confinement, and how much more salient fresh food becomes psychologically, when there is little stimuli around."
Closing quote




Though there is no doubt that this is an important breakthrough, there has been some speculation as to whether the zinnia is the first flower to grow in space. In 2012, astronaut Don Pettit successfully grew a zucchini, sunflower, and broccoli out of zip-lock plastic bags in the ISS as a personal science experiment. Though the tiny blossoms were limp and weak, they still technically bloomed. Either way, it's still a pretty beautiful - and scientifically useful- accomplishment.
Science
NASA
Space

Load Comments