An article on Yahoo! highlights plans for NASA to grow flowers on board the International Space Station (ISS), with a plan to eventually produce an “in-orbit garden” for growing edible plants.
In November, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren activated the American space agency’s planet growth system — known as Veggie — containing zinnia seeds.
“Growing a flowering crop is more challenging than growing a vegetative crop such as lettuce,” says Gioia Massa, NASA Kennedy Space Center scientist for Veggie. “Lighting and other environmental parameters are more critical.”
The Veggie system is being used on the orbiting laboratory in order to gather information on how other flowering plants could be grown in space, eventually leading to edible food crops on the space station.
“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,” says Trent Smith, Veggie Program Manager at Kennedy.
The flowers are due to grow for 60 days, which is twice as long as the crop of red romaine lettuce that was grown on the space station earlier in the year.
The Veggie plant growth system, along with the lettuce and flower seeds, was delivered to the ISS on the third resupply mission undertaken by private space company SpaceX in April 2014.