The green fingers of Nasa: Meet zinnia, the first flower grown in space

We have seen Matt Damon grow potatoes in space on screen. In real life too, we saw astronauts grow red romaine lettuce in space and eat it last year.

Now the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have taken their green finger one step further by growing the first flower in space.

The orange-petaled zinnia, with the unique distinction of being the first bloom in a garden away from Earth, was introduced to the world by Astronaut Scott Kelly who has been aboard the ISS for a good part of a year by now, saying, "Yes, there are other life forms in space!"

The zinnia also enjoyed its fair share of direct sunlight despite being aboard a space station.

The growing of flowers on the ISS' Veggie facility are part of the VEG-01 investigation and is aimed at Understanding how flowering plants grow in microgravity can be applied to growing other edible flowering plants, such as tomatoes, Nasa stated in a release.

“Growing the zinnia plants will help advance our knowledge of how plants flower in the Veggie growth system, and will enable fruiting plants like tomatoes to be grown and eaten in space using Veggie as the in-orbit garden,” said Trent Smith, Veggie program manager had written in November last year

“Growing a flowering crop is more challenging than growing a vegetative crop such as lettuce. Lighting and other environmental parameters are more critical,"  Gioia Massa, Nasa Kennedy Space Centre payload scientist for Veggie had said.

In other words, the biggest takeaway from the blooming of the zinnia is that flowering plants can grow in space. If space explorers can grow their own food while they are away from the Earth they would be more likely to survive the rigors of deep space exploration, which can last months or even years.

Does this mean that we can actually see The Martian like 'space potatoes' soon?

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Updated Date: Jan 18, 2016 14:16:47 IST

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