Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have already chomped down on lettuce grown in microgravity. Now, they’re trying to grow flowering plants to see how life in space impacts their development. This picture from NASA shows young zinnia seedlings in the station’s growth chamber. The agency says they appear to be larger than their counterparts growing on Earth as comparisons.
Studying these popular garden plants, which produce bright flowers in a range of colors, will give researchers clues about how they can grow flowering food-producing plants like tomatoes and cucumbers. The zinnias are growing in something aptly called the Veggie facility, which involves hardware and grow lights and media that are meant to lightweight and require no energy besides what’s needed for the lights. Central to the project are seed-containing growth “pillows” that provide nutrients to the plant while minimizing microorganism growth so astronauts won’t need to sanitize the food that comes from them.