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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced today (Jaunary 17, 2016) that the first flower has been bloomed outside the earth's atmosphere. After a very long wait and myriad of trials on developing florescence at the International Space Station (ISS), an unexpected result came out too well for the first time. Former engineer and a retired US Navy Captain, now US Astronaut Scott Kelly reported about the surprising flower growth of the edible Zinnia sp.--which belongs to the Asteraceae family--through his social media account. For sure, this phenomenon will positively contribute to the hope of a successful extraterrestrial agricultural development.
Since May 2014, seeds of the said species were cultivated at the ISS Veggie Laboratory, together with other crop species such as Eruca sativa (salad rocket or arugula), and Lactuca sativa L. var. longifolia (Romaine lettuce).
For the first time, astronauts showed a photo of the actual edible Zinnia flower, through Scott Kelly's Twitter account.
Project manager Trent Smith regarded this event as different from the lettuce venture. Relative to lettuce, Zinnia is more 'demanding'. Zinnia develops remarkable plant growth only after 60-80 days, and it requires more intricate and favorable lighting and other environmental conditions. Given the success it expressed amidst its ecological requirements, other 'demanding' crop species such as tomatoes could also be cultivated and grown.
At some point, Zinnia exhibits guttation and epinasty, plant physiological processes which signifies that stress such as ethylene detection and flooding is experienced by the crop. Moreover, due to excess moisture, molds developed among the samples.
In order to establish water balance into the plants, the species were subjected to a fan. But then, some crops got dehydrated and died. After the first week of 2016, the surviving plants continued to persist, and developed buds.
Accounts on the growth of Cucurbita maxima (squash) were noted, but unlike Zinnia, there was still no signs of flowering.
However, leaves show wilting and bending due to the intervention of gravity. Nevertheless, the project paved the way through improved space missions in the future because astronauts may eventually make their own food.