Other life forms: First flowers bloom on International Space Station

In Photo: Zinnia flowers on the International Space Station seen on January 16 are the first flowers grown in space as part of the Veggie facility and experiment.

THE first flower grown in space has bloomed.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) astronaut Scott Kelly, International Space Station gardener, shared photos of the prized zinnias this weekend.

“Yes, there are other life forms in space,” Kelly said on Twitter.

The story of the delicate space flowers is fraught with ups and downs, similar to gardens on Earth.

Just last month, the small crop wasn’t looking good. The leaves and buds were covered in mold because of a leak in the plant container.

“I’m going to have to channel my inner Mark Watney,” Kelly posted then, referencing the potato-growing skills of the astronaut in The Martian.

An unplanned spacewalk delayed fixing the problem in the space garden and by December 22 they were dying, Nasa’s Trent Smith said. Kelly had to act quickly to cut away the moldy leaves and dry the plant chamber.

By January 12 the plants were on the rebound and some buds had sprouted, Kelly said.

The bright zinnias are not the first crop of the Veggie experiment, but the lessons from their growing process could be applied to tomatoes, also a flowering planet, Smith said.

Red romaine lettuce was the first crop from the Veggie plant growth facility, installed in May 2014. Kelly and Astronaut Kjell Lindgren snacked on the second crop of lettuce in July 2015; the first crop was sent back to Earth for analysis.

The third round of the experiments will include Chinese cabbage and more lettuce.

Image credits: Scott Kelly/Nasa/TNS


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