First Space Zinnia Blooms and Catches Sun’s Rays on Space Station

Photo of first ever blooming space Zinnia flower grown onboard the International Space Station's Veggie facility moved to catch the sun’s rays through the windows of the Cupola backdropped by Earth.  Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly/@StationCDRKelly

The first Zinnia flower to bloom in space is dramatically catching the sun’s rays like we have never seen before – through the windows of the Cupola on the International Space Station (ISS) while simultaneously providing a splash of soothing color, nature and reminders of home to the multinational crew living and working on the orbital science laboratory.

NASA astronaut and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly is proudly sharing stunning new photos showing off his space grown Zinnias – which bloomed for the first time on Jan. 16, all thanks to his experienced green thumb.

The most breathtaking view, seen above, shows the newly blooming Zinnia soaking up sunlight inside the seven windowed Cupola – backdropped by our beautiful Earth and one of the stations huge power generating solar arrays. The domed Cupola is the astronauts favorite place on station.

“Yes, there are other life forms in space!” Kelly tweeted in glee over the weekend with a magnificent series of photos of the fruits of his space gardening labor.

“How does your garden grow? Here’s how my #spaceflower came to bloom,” Kelly noted.

The six humans aboard the ISS are now sharing the orbiting outpost with the experimental Zinnias being grown in the stations Veggie plant growth facility.

Whereas the Zinnia plants are normally bathed with red, green and blue LED lighting in the chamber, Kelly decided to further nurture the plants with some all natural sunlight from our life giving sun.

The Veggie experiment is comprised of “pillows” holding the Zinnia flower seedlings that provide nutrients to the plants root system inside the experimental and low-cost illuminated growth chamber.

Kelly is clearly relishing his new role as “Veggie commander” of the now thriving Zinnias by following in the fictional footsteps of botanist Mark Watney in “The Martian” and deciding on his own how best to care for the plants.

But it almost wasn’t to be. Only a few weeks ago, these same Zinnias were suffering from a serious case of space blight when he discovered traces of mold just before Christmas – as reported here.

“Our plants aren’t looking too good. Would be a problem on Mars,” tweeted Kelly.

“I’m going to have to channel my inner Mark Watney.”

So Kelly set about to save the Zinnias from a potential near death experience.

The survival of the Zinnias is a direct result of Kelly requesting permission to take personal change of caring for the plants without having to constantly ask Mission Control for instruction and direction.

The Zinnias have been on the rebound ever since and the proof is in the blooming.

The “Veggie” plant growth system is housed inside the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory located at the end of the US section of the ISS.

Veggie-01 was delivered to the ISS by the SpaceX-3 Dragon cargo resupply mission launched in April 2014, carrying the pillow sets containing the romaine lettuce and zinnia seeds.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

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