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Can Flowers Thrive Aboard the International Space Station?

posted: 11/17/15
by: Danny Clemens
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The International Space Station just launched a science experiment that doubles as a colorful piece of home decor.

According to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, astronaut Kjell Lindgren has flipped the switch on the ISS's first flowering crop experiment, part of the Veggie investigation. If all goes as planned, Veggie will spawn a bountiful crop of zinnia flowers over the next two months.

For ten hours each day, a system of red, blue and green LED lights will bathe the experimental crop in artificial light. Lindgren will also operate a water and nutrient system to cultivate the plants.

Zinnia flower macro shot
Natalie Parker/Flickr

Earlier this year, astronaut Scott Kelly spent 33 days growing and harvesting a small crop of red romaine lettuce aboard the space station, the first instance of produce being grown in microgravity for human consumption.

"Growing a flowering crop is more challenging than growing a vegetative crop such as lettuce," Gioia Massa, NASA Kennedy Space Center payload scientist, explains in a news release. "Lighting and other environmental parameters are more critical."

Related: Fresh Espresso is Now Available Aboard the ISS

Mission commanders hope that Veggie will prove to be an important step in the quest to grow consumable crops in space. During the investigation, NASA will examine the garden's impact on crew morale and determine best practices for long-term seed storage and germination.

In 2017, astronauts will attempt to grow tomato plants aboard the space station.

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