A flower blooms – in space This image made available by NASA via Twitter posted on Jan. 17, 2016 by space station commander Scott Kelly, shows a zinnia flower out in the sun at the International Space Station. (Scott Kelly/NASA via AP/Thinkstock)
A flower blooms – in space
Lexile

The International Space Station now has a bright pop of orange, thanks to commander Scott Kelly's green thumb.
 
Kelly showed off his gardening results, a thriving zinnia with a beautiful orange-yellow bloom. He posted photos of the flower on his Twitter account.
 
"Yes, there are other life forms in space!" Kelly said in a tweet in mid-January.
 
In December, Kelly had to fight off mold that threatened to kill all the flowers in the space station's mini-greenhouse. Mission Control gave him free rein. He managed to save some of the crop. This type of autonomous gardening will be necessary during Mars expeditions, Kelly noted.
 
In a nod to last year's blockbuster movie "The Martian," Kelly said, "I'm going to have to channel my inner Mark Watney." Watney is the fictitious astronaut-botanist who ends up stranded alone on Mars. He grows potatoes in order to survive.
 
The space station's plant-growing experiment saw a bumper crop of red romaine lettuce last summer. The space station crew got to sample a few leaves.
 
While this is the first zinnia known to bloom in space, it's not the first space flower.
 
In 2012, space station astronaut Donald Pettit memorably coaxed blooms out of a zucchini plant. He blogged about his informal experiment in "Diary of a Space Zucchini." He also nurtured Space Sunflower and Space Broccoli.
 
The Russians hold claim to the first flower in space. It was aboard the Soviet Salyut space stations of the 1970s and 1980s.
 
These new space zinnias aren't just for looks. NASA said they're a good precursor to tomato plants, targeted to launch in 2018. The next hothouse crop, coming up soon on a SpaceX supply flight, will be Chinese cabbage and more lettuce.
 
NASA's little greenhouse is known as Veggie, short for Vegetable Production System. It was flown to the space station in 2014.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why are scientists experimenting with plant life in space?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (115)
  • darinp-
    1/26/2016 - 09:48 a.m.

    Scientists are experimenting with plant life because if they learn how to grow plants in space, the expeditions might last longer and they may be able to have photosynthesis in space so they can breath air in a concealed place

  • autianae-ste
    1/26/2016 - 01:11 p.m.

    Plant life in space is a great experiment to study our atmosphere. I really enjoy this article, not just because of why they did it, but the experiment in general. I have lots of gardeners in my family and I can relate to the "green thumb" Scott Kelly has.

  • sammise-sau
    1/26/2016 - 02:12 p.m.

    I really like that flower

  • taylore-1-bar
    1/26/2016 - 06:25 p.m.

    Scientists are experimenting with plant life in space because if anything were to happen to Earth, people could send food back down. The plants would be safe in space. I thought this article was interesting because I didn't know that plants could grow in space. I thought that there was no life in space. This surprised me because I have never heard of this happening before.

  • emmam-2-hol
    1/26/2016 - 06:30 p.m.

    It will be necessary for the Mars expedition.

  • william1108-yyca
    1/26/2016 - 07:28 p.m.

    WOW! I can't believe that a space flower bloomed in space. And also broccoli and a sun flower. But also that he grew a flower. But it is sad that he wasn't the first to do it. But he should also be proud to be able to do it.

  • samuelh-3-bar
    1/26/2016 - 07:51 p.m.

    Scientists are experimenting with plant life in space because, they want to know if farming in space is actually possible, not just something in a movie. This might also lead to farms in space and colonization on other plants.

  • jasminec-6-bar
    1/26/2016 - 08:07 p.m.

    They are experimenting with plant life in space to test if humans can one day live in space. These preliminary tests are being done to help scientist figure out the sustainability of life outside. Just like in the movie, "The Martian" his survival was based on whether he could farm on another planet.
    This article was fascinating because it makes me think of living on another planet and how cool that would be to do farming with my own fertilizer.

  • gabriellek-1-bar
    1/26/2016 - 08:55 p.m.

    Scientist are experimenting with plant life in space because it will be useful information to know during the expeditions to Mars. I found this article interesting because I just watched the movie "Martian" about an astronaut stranded on Mars who is running out of food and needs to find a way to supply more. He conducts experiments and figures out how to grow potatoes on Mars. I found this article surprising when a flower this pretty grew out in space and was threatened by mold to stay alive.

  • colek-1-bar
    1/26/2016 - 10:16 p.m.

    They want to know if life can survive out side of Earth's gravity. NASA thinks growing zinnia and zucchini plants are a, "good precursor to tomato plants," which is another food that will be tested in space soon. If life can survive outside Earth, then there is a hope for humans to live in space. This is a very promising experiment and will be followed by many more tests. If scientists can find a way for plants to grow in space, then the human race has hope of leaving Earth and thriving in space. I thought this article was very interesting and found plants growing in space very surprising.

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