NASA's Scott Kelly Reveals the "First-Ever Flower Grown in Space"
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.
Our plants aren't looking too good. Would be a problem on Mars. I'm going to have to channel my inner Mark Watney. pic.twitter.com/m30bwCKA3w— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) December 27, 2015
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.