How Zinnias are Helping us get to Mars

Photos of the Ground Zinnias' Harvesting inside the SSPF

 

Space Station Research Paves Way for Crops in Space

Before NASA is able to reach its target of sending a human expedition to Mars, and even exploring Deep Space in the future beyond that, solutions to a plethora of challenges must be found. The need to create sustainable crops for sustenance, is one of those challenges.

Most recently Astronaut Scott Kelly has become an even bigger space celebrity, by harvesting a small crop of Zinnia plants on the International Space Station. The growing experiment, with a mirrored control experiment simultaneously taking place on Earth, is providing valuable data regarding the challenges of growing crops in space. Data is helping scientists to develop new methods that could be used on future missions, and maybe even in future outposts on Mars.

One important benefit that NASA expects from growing crops and flowers onboard a spacecraft, is that they will have the ability to boost crew morale. Upcoming missions will have astronauts growing lettuce and cabbage, for both research and consumption.

Zinnia plants from the Veggie ground control experiment at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida were harvested Feb. 11 in the same way that crew member Scott Kelly will harvest the zinnias growing in the Veggie system aboard the International Space Station on Feb. 14—Valentine’s Day. Flowering plants will help scientists learn more about growing crops for deep-space missions and NASA’s journey to Mars.

Flowering Zinnias on Space Station set Stage for Deep-Space Food Crop Research

Zinnia plants from the Veggie ground control experiment at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida were harvested Feb. 11 in the same way that crew member Scott Kelly will harvest the zinnias growing in the Veggie system aboard the International Space Station on Feb. 14—Valentine’s Day. Flowering plants will help scientists learn more about growing crops for deep-space missions and NASA’s journey to Mars.

The base tray containing zinnias is removed from a controlled environment chamber.

Chuck Spern, a project engineer with Vencore on the Engineering Services Contract, removes the base tray containing zinnias from a controlled environment chamber in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

The ground plants didn’t experience some of the same stressors as those grown simultaneously on the ISS — like unexpected fungus growth. However, some of the zinnia plants aboard the floating laboratory pulled through due to collaboration between the astronauts and the ground team at Kennedy. Ultimately, the experiment that went off-script when astronaut Scott Kelly became an autonomous gardener, provided researchers with even more information about how to effectively grow plants in space than they expected.

“I think we’ve learned a lot about doing this kind of experiment. We’re being farmers in space,” Kelly said. “I was extra motivated to bring the plants back to life. I’m going to harvest them on Valentine’s Day.”

Original Story from http://www.nasa.gov/feature/flowering-zinnias-on-space-station-set-stage-for-deep-space-food-crop-research .

 

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