Valentines Day, 2016. Scott Kelly harvests a patch of Zinnias in the International Space Station. Space travel to Mars is getting closer then ever. NASA is currently in the middle of an experiment to grow plants and vegetables in space. The seeds were activated on November 13th, and have been growing bountiful since. “We need to learn a tremendous amount to help develop more robust sustainable food production systems as NASA moves toward long-duration exploration and the journey to Mars,” said Gioia Massa, a principal ground scientist for the experiment.
The experiment consisted of two patches of Zinnias, one on the ground and one up in space. Grown in the same conditions and time span, to see if any faults would arise. “The flowers going to seed are a good demonstration for sustainable food crops,” said Nicole Dufour, a NASA mechanical engineer and Veggie subject-matter expert. “It’s a good example of starting with seeds and ending with seeds, which is what you need to sustain crop growth.”
Researchers are curious to see if the pollen from the plants are going to affect the health of crew members, and if having bright flowers aboard will boost morale as well. Expieremnts that involve space plants have always brought joy to astronauts, especially for the people who have been in space for long periods of time, like Scott Kelly. Part of the pleasure of being an astronaut is having been involved in meaningful work, according to behavioral scientists at NASA. However, it is not just astronauts that are positively affected by growing plants!
The next batch of plants sent to the space station will include two types of seeds: ‘Outrageous’ Red Romaine Lettuce for the crew to grow and consume, and a variety of small Chinese Cabbage called ‘Tokyo Bekana.’ We are all excited to see the outcome of these experiments!
Thank you NASA for the original information. You can read more about the experiment here.