NASA astronaut Scott Kelly unveiled a photo of the first flower ever grown in space on Twitter on January 16.
The plant is the zinnia, a flower native in the Southwestern United States. In 2014, The Veggie plant growth facility was installed on the orbiting laboratory. The zinnia flower was specifically chosen so scientists can understand how plants flower and grow in microgravity.
The zinnia plants began to exhibit guttation and epinasty, both signs of plant stress. Credits: NASA
“Growing 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,” Trent Smith, Veggie project manager at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida stated in a press rlease.
Smith added the zinnia flower “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.