NASA Astronauts Become Gardeners With First Space-Grown Zinnia

Zinnia On ISSOn the heels of growing vegetables for the first time in outer space, NASA astronauts on the International Space Station are finding out that growing zinnias, just like on Earth, is not without its share of challenges.

A story on NASA.gov highlights how what may seem like a failure in systems (astronaut Scott Kelly had tweeted a photo of zinnias with moldy leaves) is actually an opportunity for scientists back on Earth to better understand how plants grow in microgravity, and for astronauts to practice doing what they’ll be tasked with on a deep space mission: autonomous gardening.

Zinnias were chosen because they can help scientists understand how plants flower and grow in microgravity.

“The zinnia plant is very different from lettuce [the first crop grown]”, says Trent Smith, Veggie Project Manager. “It is more sensitive to environmental parameters and light characteristics. It has a longer growth duration between 60 and 80 days. Thus, it is a more difficult plant to grow, and allowing it to flower, along with the longer growth duration, makes it a good precursor to a tomato plant.”

Check out the full NASA report and what it could mean for future out-of-this-world plant growing.

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