Space Flower: NASA Astronauts Grow Zinnias, Predecessor to Flowering Food Crops
A bunch of fully flowering, backyard-garden ready red-orange zinnia flowers are growing on the International Space Station, as a CNN article noted.
These are no leaf lettuces, which were previously raised from seed to crop on the space station. A flowering plant is the next step toward growing more complicated crops, such as tomatoes, as astronauts have noted before.
Not only that, but they are pretty and edible. U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly recently tweeted a photo of one of the flowers, giving it the hashtag #spaceflower.
The flowers were narrowly saved after mold began growing on some of the leaves as a result of high humidity in the growing environment, said a recent NASA blog. (Scroll down to read further...)
It's true, though, that a sunflower was previously grown in 2012, along with a zucchini and broccoli plant. These were raised by astronaut Don Pettit in zip-lock plastic bags. Pettit's work was recorded in another NASA blog post.
The zinnias are an outgrowth (pun intended) of the Veggie project, which intends to help astronauts learn to grow fresh food and gain awareness of what can be achieved in space.
"In future missions, the importance of plants will likely increase, given the crews' limited connection to Earth," Alexandra Whitmire from NASA's Human Research Program wrote in another NASA blog.
Whitmire added that working to grow plants can also help astronauts fight feelings of loneliness and isolation. "Plants can indeed enhance long duration missions in isolated, confined and extreme environments -- environments that are artificial and deprived of nature," she said. "While not all crew members may enjoy taking care of plants, for many, having this option is beneficial...Studies from other isolated and confined environments, such as Antarctic stations, demonstrate the importance of plants in confinement, and how much more salient fresh food becomes psychologically, when there is little stimuli around."
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