NASA moves from growing veggies to flowers on the ISS

Following their success at growing lettuce in space for the very first time (and then eating it), NASA's International Space Station crew is moving on from salads to a garden. The agency says astronaut Kjell Lindgren has begun an experiment attempting to grow the very first flowers from space. Growing flowers, in this case, zinnias, is still part of NASA's Veggie plant growth system, a wider study on microgravity's effects of plant life.

"Growing the zinnia plants will help advance our knowledge of how plants flower in the Veggie growth system," explains NASA's Veggie program manager Trent Smith. The hope is that they can move on to growing things like tomatoes aboard the ISS, allowing astronauts to eat from an "in-orbit garden."

Lindgren will be encouraging the flowers' growth cycle with periods of LED lights being on for 10 hours, and then off for 14 hours, along with water and nutrients. If successful, the flowers should bloom in early 2016. As another potential benefit, scientists are studying to see if plants aboard the ISS has a positive effect on the crew's morale.

The greater goal of growing plants and vegetables in space is to one day be able to develop greenhouses in orbit, as well as give astronauts in deep space a way to grow their own food supply. The next step of the experiment for the ISS crew will involve trying to grow tomatoes in early 2017.