This flower is out of this world. The 13-petaled orange zinnia is the first ever to be grown in the zero gravity of space. And after a rocky start to its life on board the International Space Station, it appears to finally be blooming. U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly proudly tweeted a snap of the plant on Sunday. “#SpaceFlower out in the sun for the first time! #YearInSpace,” he wrote.
“Yes, there are other life forms in space!” he added in a later post. Kelly is right to be pleased. The zinnia’s flowering is a landmark moment in science and also testament to his hard work in saving the specimen after it nearly died. On Dec. 27 he tweeted a sad image showing the plants leaves’ curled and covered in mold. “Our plants aren’t looking too good. Would be a problem on Mars,” he wrote.
According to a NASA blog about the experiment, the seed containers were leaking and the plants roots’ were being flooded. After vowing to channel his “inner Mark Watney” — the stranded NASA astronaut Matt Damon plays in “The Martian” — Kelly quickly set about reviving them. He changed the watering of the plants and instead of following a strict schedule just topped them up when he felt they needed it, according to Engadget.
“If we’re going to Mars, and we were growing stuff, we would be responsible for deciding when the stuff needed water,” he said at the time. After a hairy few days when some of the plants ended up dying, he succeeded in nurturing a couple until one flowered. The dead flowers will be taken back to Earth and analyzed, per the blog.
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