Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageA zinnia boldly grows where no zinnia has grown before

By Karen Graham     Jan 18, 2016 in Science
Another first in the annals of space travel will go down in the history books, now that U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly has tweeted a picture of a zinnia bloom grown on the International Space Station on January 16.
Some people might think growing a flower is no big deal but when that flower was grown in a microgravity environment, then it's something pretty special.
The whole zinnia project was almost doomed to failure when on Dec. 27, Scott tweeted a picture of what appeared to be mold growing on the current crop of zinnias. Scott tweeted, "Our plants aren't looking too good. Would be a problem on Mars. I'm going to have to channel my inner Mark Watney."
Scott Kelly
The zinnia seeds were planted late last year. The problem started about two weeks after the seeds had sprouted when the space gardeners noticed some of the leaves had water seeping out of them, a sign of high internal pressure. A few of the leaves began to curl up and bend down, an indication the plants were under stress and the roots were flooded.
Even with intervention by way of increasing air flow in the growing chamber, the problems continued. Finally, the mold appeared and Kelly decided, like any dedicated gardener, to take matters into his own hands. He cut off the moldy leaves and once again increased the fan speeds. With diligence and the persistence of a mother hen, Kelly ended up with two of the four zinnia plants living, and one of them blooming.
The zinnia plants began to exhibit guttation and epinasty  both signs of plant stress.
The zinnia plants began to exhibit guttation and epinasty, both signs of plant stress.
Zinnias aren't the first plants to grow in space
The veggie plant growth chamber that housed the zinnias has been used to grow batches of red romaine lettuce, some of which were eaten last year by the astronauts. Zinnias were chosen as the next plant to grow because scientists wanted to see how difficult it would be to grow flowers in micro-gravity.
And even though Kelly claims the zinnia is the first flower to be grown in space, this may not be true. Astronaut Don Pettit grew a sunflower on the station in 2012, so it's fairly certain that plants have bloomed on the space station before, says the Verge.
The Veggie flight pillow. The bellows of the hardware have been lowered to better observe the plants...
The Veggie flight pillow. The bellows of the hardware have been lowered to better observe the plants. A small temperature and relative humidity data logger is placed between the pillows in the small white box, in the center.
The Veggie seen in the above picture is an expandable plant growth facility. Veggie is a low-cost plant facility and uses a flat-panel light bank with red, blue and green LEDs for plant growth and crew observation. Veggie’s unique design is collapsible for transport and storage and expandable up to a foot and a half as plants grow inside it.
The internal growing area is 11.5 inches wide and 14.5 inches deep, and with space at a premium on the space station, this Veggie was kept small. But the uniqueness of the system has a lot of implications for extended space travel and use on another planet, should we go so far, as well as here on Earth.
June 24  2012: Sunflower is going to seed! His blossom is wilted-brown and has a few lopsided packed...
June 24, 2012: Sunflower is going to seed! His blossom is wilted-brown and has a few lopsided packed seeds. This is not quite normal, but then, we are living on the frontier and things are different here. Note: The sunflower was grown in a zip-loc bag.
More about zinnia blooms in space, first ever flower to bloom, edible plants, International Space Station, weightlessness
Latest News
Top News