For the first time, a zinnia flower blooms in space

Science and Tech

This January 17, 2016 handout photo taken by US astronaut Scott Kelly on board the International Space Station shows a zinnia in bloom. (AFP PHOTO / NASA / SCOTT KELLY)

The International Space Station has a new feather in its cap, so to speak: the first zinnia flower grown outside the earth’s atmosphere.

The flowers, edible zinnias, were grown inside the Veggie lab, which was installed onboard the International Space Station in May 2014.

“While the plants haven’t grown perfectly, I think we have gained a lot from this, and we are learning both more about plants and fluids and also how better to operate between ground and station,” Dr. Gioia Massa, NASA science team lead for Veggie, said. “Regardless of final flowering outcome we will have gained a lot.”

While the zinnias were growing, there were fears that their leaves were gathering mould due to the excess humidity in the flower garden. The crew then used fans to help dry them out, but two of them died unexpectedly because the fans worked too well.

“We lost two plants due to drought stress in the first grow out and thus were very vigilant with respect to the second crop,” Veggie project manager Trent Smith said.

“Plants can indeed enhance long duration missions in isolated, confined and extreme environments – environments that are artificial and deprived of nature,” Alexandra Whitmire, deputy element scientist for the Behavioral Health and Performance element in the NASA Human Research Program said. “While not all crew members may enjoy taking care of plants, for many, having this option is beneficial.”

CCTV News content contributed to this report