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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Space Zinnias Rebound from Space Blight on Space Station

Space Zinnias growing inside the International Space Station's Veggie facility are on the rebound! Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly/@StationCDRKelly

Zinnia plants growing aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have staged a dramatic New Year’s comeback from a potential near death experience over the Christmas holidays, when traces of mold were discovered.

And it’s all thanks to the experienced green thumb of Space Station Commander Scott Kelly, channeling his “inner Mark Watney!”

After suffering from a serious case of space blight on the space station, the ‘Space Zinnia’s’ growing inside the orbiting outposts Veggie facility are now on the comeback trail from space bound trials and tribulations.

“Some of my space flowers are on the rebound!” tweeted Kelly, in an ISS Weekend Update to space enthusiasts and horticulturalists worldwide.

“No longer looking sad!”

Earlier this year, the ISS crew had already proven they could successfully grow, cultivate and eat space grown romaine lettuce they gleefully harvested from Veggie – as reported here.

Kelly, along with newly arrived British astronaut Tim Peake, had started growing the Zinnia flowers in December in the Veggie experimental facility as part of the Veg-01 investigation.

Veggie is comprised of “pillows” holding the Zinnia flower seedlings that provide nutrients to the root system inside an experimental low-cost growth chamber that provides lighting for the plants.

The purpose is to grow plants in the growth chamber in space and comparing their progress to plants grown on Earth as “ground truth” counterparts.
At first the space station Zinnias made great progress, sprouting healthily into larger plants with bigger leaves than those growing on Earth.

“These plants appear larger than their ground-based counterparts and scientists expect buds to form on the larger plants soon,” researchers reported in mid-December 2015.

But over the Christmas holidays, Kelly discovered the mold infestation snapped the photo below of the dire looking Zinnia plants.

“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.”

Kelly is now on the home stretch of his “1-Year-Long” mission aboard the ISS aimed at paving the way for multi-year expeditions to the Red Planet.

In essence Kelly’s efforts are directly contributing towards turning the realistic science fiction exploits of NASA astronaut Mark Watney in “The Martian” – played by Matt Damon – into science fact for NASA’s future astronauts on a “Journey to Mars.”
Learning to grow edible food is a key task that future astronauts will have to master to enable voyages to the Red Planet and back.

After assessing the “sad” situation, Mission Control in Houston asked Kelly to take action by collecting some samples for later analysis on Earth and. more urgently, increasing the Veggie facilities fan speed to cut down on the high humidity that’s likely the “root cause” of the mold infestation.

“The experiment (Veg-01) team has been monitoring signs of high humidity within the Veggie compartment, and had planned to turn up the interior fan to dry out the environment. The larger plant leaves had become wet due to the formation of droplets – known as guttation – and as a result, created conditions for mold growth,” NASA reported.

So, Kelly trimmed and dried the leaves after Christmas. He double bagged the leaf samples and stored them into the stations ultra low temperature freezer, named MELFI (Minus Eighty Degree Celsius Laboratory Freezer for ISS). They will be returned to Earth later this year aboard a SpaceX cargo Dragon for eventual analysis by researchers.
Tomato plants will be grown inside Veggie at a future date.

“ Understanding how flowering plants grow in microgravity can be applied to growing other edible flowering plants, such as tomatoes,” says NASA.

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

Ken Kremer

The post Space Zinnias Rebound from Space Blight on Space Station appeared first on Universe Today.

Yummy! ISS Astronauts Eat First Space Grown Food

Video caption: That’s one small bite for a man, one giant leaf for mankind: NASA Astronauts Scott Kelly, Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui of Japan sample the fruits of their labor after harvesting a crop of “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce from the Veggie plant growth system on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV Going […]