Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) have grown the first flower in space.
- The orange zinnia looks like a daisy and has a reputation for being one of the easiest flowers to grow on Earth. In space, though, it was a challenge getting it to sprout.
- The flower is part of a wider attempt to grow food in orbit, using Nasa’s plant growth system Veggie, which was delivered to the ISS in April 2014.
- The Veggie team has already enjoyed a successful lettuce harvest and plan to have tomatoes too by 2017.
- Ultimately, the hope is to make possible “a sustainable food supplement” for a future manned mission to Mars.
- But space gardening is plagued with problems, including high radiation levels and temperature extremes.
- Fortunately, with the ISS in a low orbit, the Earth’s magnetic field shields plants from the worst radiation effects. Inside the station, the atmosphere can be tightly controlled.