Micro-gravity Gardening: Astronauts Grow First Flower On Board the ISS

Tim PeakeMajor Tim Peake, a European Space Agency astronaut and crew member of the International Space Station, is known for many things. From his awe-inspiring photographs the ISS orbits the earth and his literally out-of-this-world spacewalk selfies, he has made UK proud for being the first astronaut to make a flower bloom in micro-gravity.

Before Christmas, Mission Commander Scott Kelly posts a photo on Twitter of moldy zinnia flowers. The commander has been caring for the seedlings as part of a project called the “VEG-01 investigation.” Major Peake, being a green thumb himself, took over the project, hoping that the flowers will perk up in his care.

On January 17, Commander Kelly posts a macro photo of a full-grown zinnia flower with the Earth in the background, noting that they bloomed under Major Peake’s care. It was grown on a special pillow. Major Peake says the trick was to vary the amounts of water, to see how it affected the plant’s growth.

This debut of the zinnia flower is a fantastic addition to the space station’s ‘veggie’ facility. Earlier this year, crew members were able to grow a lettuce, which they then consumed. With other plant species being grown in the horticultural lab, their projects aim to one day provide fresh food for crew members on long-duration missions. The lab will also be a great opportunity to provide educational outreach and even recreation for crew members.

People are impressed by Major Peake’s wild enthusiasm. One day before Commander Kelly posts the zinnia photo, Major Peake made history for carrying the UK flag on a tricky six hour mission to repair a faulty solar power unit and lay new cables. But, despite the emergency, the two were able to fix the solar power unit that has been a major concern for the space station since November.

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zinniaThe mission didn’t go as smoothly as expect, however, when his mission partner, General Tim Kopra, finds 15ml pooled water in his helmet. This incident prompted mission control to abandon the spacewalk and recall both astronauts back inside the ISS. Major Peake describes his first spacewalk as “exhilarating” and adds that it will be forever etched in his memory.

The next day, Major Peake wows the world with his unwavering courage and determination, when he proves the world that green thumbs do not only belong in British backyard gardens.

Although it was NASA’s Scott Kelly who looked after the seedlings, it bloomed in Major Peake’s care, demonstrating his inherent skill that the ESA did not teach him. It was a proud moment for all partner nations of the ISS, as both Commander Kelly and Major Peake mark an important milestone in micro-gravity gardening, even fixing the solar power unit in just over four hours.

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