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Surprising Science

Proof That Life Finds a Way. Even in the Most Adverse Conditions.

Astronaut Scott Kelly channeled his inner Mark Watney.

“Yes, there are other life forms in space!” astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted over the weekend. For the first time in our history, a flower has bloomed in space.

The zinnias have been in Kelly’s care for the past month. But for the past year, scientists up in the International Space Station (ISS) have tried to make this plant bloom with no success. Growing plants in microgravity isn’t easy, and past failures have helped pave the way to this recent success.

“The zinnia plant is very different from lettuce,” said Trent Smith, Veggie project manager. “It is more sensitive to environmental parameters and light characteristics. It has a longer growth duration between 60 and 80 days. Thus, it is a more difficult plant to grow, and allowing it to flower, along with the longer growth duration, makes it a good precursor to a tomato plant.”

In the early weeks of its growth, the high humidity and low airflow were causing mold to grow on the zinnias.

When Kelly stepped in to take charge of the project, he knew he’d have to channel his inner Mark Watney (from The Martian) and “science the sh*t out this.”

Our plants aren’t looking too good. Would be a problem on Mars. I’m going to have to channel my inner Mark Watney.

— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) December 27, 2015


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