Looks like we’ve found life in space after all. Or at least, a way to create life in space.
NASA astronauts successfully grew a crop of zinnia flowers aboard the International Space Station. While that may not sound like much of a feat, consider that everything plants rely on to grow here on Earth doesn’t exist in space. There is no oxygen, water, soil or even gravity. While the Sun is still around, there is no atmosphere to filter its harsh rays.
As a result, this is what is required to grow a flower in space:
Not quite what you expected, huh? What you’re seeing is an astronaut activating a series of red, blue and green LED lights – stand-ins for the sun. The plant is also grown in microgravity, and literally everything else it needs is provided by astronauts. When the plant began showing signs of stress as a result of excess humidity, astronauts cranked up what they’re calling a “veggie fan” to help keep the leaves dry.
This isn’t the first time we’ve grown a plant in space, though. Scientists were already able to successfully produce lettuce, but the zinnia flowers were chosen this time because they are “more sensitive to environmental parameters and light characteristics,” Veggie project manager Trent Smith said in a statement.
Here is the result of all of their hard work:
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) January 16, 2016
The real gem here though is why we’re trying to grow things in space. Long-term space missions (like a mission to Mars, for example), would require the crew to know how to produce their own food, not unlike Mark Watney’s potato-growing skills displayed in The Martian.
You could almost say it’s one small step for the zinnia plant, and one giant leap for space travel.