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First Ever Flower Grown in Space During a Veggie Experiment


First Ever Flower Grown in Space During a Veggie Experiment
With the first ever bunch of zinnia flowers blooming in space, the attempt of astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), who have been there for nearly two years, the attempts to cultivate edible plants in microgravity became somewhat successful.
"First ever flower grown in space makes its debut! #SpaceFlower #zinnia #YearInSpace", wrote U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly while she tweeted a photo of one of the orange flowers.
According to a recet NASA blog, after mold started growing on some of the leaves because of high humidity, Kelly brought the flowers back to life.
Zinnias are colorful, long-lasting flowers that are also edible.
However this is not the first time plants have sprouted in space.
"Outredgeous" red romaine lettuce have been grown by the ISS team that had installed the space station's Veggie plant system in mid-2014.
The vegetable was grown aeroponically -- that is, in an air or mist environment without soil. NSAS has said that plants grown aeroponically require far less water and fertilizer, don't need pesticide, are much less prone to disease, and grow up to three times faster than plants grown in soil.
This was the "first time a flowering crop experiment will be grown on the orbiting laboratory", NASA wrote in a blog.
NASA was not immediately available for comment.
But there are some voices that claim that a sunflower was actually the first flower to grow in space.
A zucchini, sunflower and broccoli were successfully grown out of zip-lock plastic bags on the ISS as personal science experiment in 2012 by astronaut Don Pettit. The the life of his "companions" was documented by Pettit in a NASA blog called "Diary of Space Zucchini".  
Still, these small victories are just the beginning.
"I hope to see Veggie's success as the first step in food production that will allow astronauts on the space station to enjoy fresh food and gain knowledge as we explore beyond low-Earth orbit," said  Brian Onate, who helped build the plant growth system before it went into space.
Alexandra Whitmire from NASA's Human Research Program said that the veggie project will also produce crucial information for a Mars mission. For example, knowing what to do if there is mold growth and understanding watering schedules in microgravity or other challenges in these extreme conditions.
"In future missions, the importance of plants will likely increase, given the crews' limited connection to Earth," Whitmire wrote in a NASA blog.
Psychological benefits for astronauts, particularly in combating feelings of isolation and loneliness is also possible to gain by growing plants in space, she added.
"Plants can indeed enhance long duration missions in isolated, confined and extreme environments -- environments that are artificial and deprived of nature. While not all crew members may enjoy taking care of plants, for many, having this option is beneficial," she said.
"Studies from other isolated and confined environments, such as Antarctic stations, demonstrate the importance of plants in confinement, and how much more salient fresh food becomes psychologically, when there is little stimuli around," she added.
NASA hopes Veggie will become a regular facility for ISS astronauts to grow fresh food in space.

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