Following upon its initial successes with lettuce back in August, NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station are attempting to coerce a colony of zinnias to flower for the first time. The effort is part of the larger Veggie plant growth system which is studying the effects of microgravity on plant life.
"Growing the zinnia plants will help advance our knowledge of how plants flower in the Veggie growth system, and will enable fruiting plants like tomatoes to be grown and eaten in space using Veggie as the in-orbit garden," said Trent Smith, Veggie program manager at Kennedy. Additionally, scientists are studying how having plants aboard the orbiting laboratory impacts crew morale.
In this case, researchers are studying how the lack of gravity affects the zinnias' pollen disbursement. If successful, the experiment could pave the way for orbital greenhouses and give deep space astronauts access to fresh fruit and vegetables. The ISS crew will next attempt to cultivate tomatoes beginning in 2017.
[Image Credit: Boston Globe via Getty Images]