The first flower to bloom in space was photographed on the International Space Station (ISS). Astronaut Scott Kelly from the US shared the picture of the zinnia plant on his Twitter account.
“First ever flower grown in space makes its debut!”, writes Scott Kelly as the photo caption.
The ‘event’ was forecasted last November: on a NASA blog, it was announced that flowers might be blooming on the ISS following the New Year.
The flowering crop experiment was the first of its kind; while other plants have been grown in space, a flowering one had never seen the light of day before. Zinnias were grown to acquire more information concerning the potential of having other flowering plants in space. The plant growth was closely monitored to ensure it would ultimately bloom. However, last December Scott Kelly had said on Twitter that the plants were not “looking too good”.
But, fortunately, we now have our first flower blooming in space.
Zinnia was not easy to grow. For instance, it took a relatively longer time to mature (60 days), and lighting had to be meticulously regulated by the scientists. These very characteristics, however, are thought to allow scientists to gain a better understanding of the growth and flowering of plants in microgravity. Furthermore, they also make of the zinnia an ideal precursor to tomato plant.
Plants are likely to become more important in missions to be planned in the future since the crew is expected to have a more limited interaction with the Earth by then, says Alexandra Whitmire from the NASA Human Research Programme.
Not to mention how flowers can naturally boost an environment just with their presence. Whitmire explains that plants can “enhance long-duration missions” that are conducted in isolation.