An astronaut is showing the residents of Earth a flower whose beauty can be described as "astronomical."

This photo was shared by Astronaut Scott Kelly on Twitter:


The fate of the zinnia flowers aboard the International Space Station (ISS) appeared doomed earlier, as Kelly had previously tweeted pictures of the plants' moldy leaves.  According to a January 16, 2016 post from NASA, however, the perceived "... failure in systems is actually an exceptional opportunity for scientists back on Earth to better understand how plants grow in microgravity, and for astronauts to practice doing what they’ll be tasked with on a deep space mission: autonomous gardening."

The plant growth system named "Veggie" was activated by NASA in May of 2014.  NASA says, “While the plants haven’t grown perfectly,” said Dr. Gioia Massa, NASA science team lead for Veggie, “I think we have gained a lot from this, and we are learning both more about plants and fluids and also how better to operate between ground and station. Regardless of final flowering outcome we will have gained a lot.”

The plants were cared for by NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, and Astronauut Scott Kelly took over when Lindgren returned to Earth in December of 2015.

When problems began developing with the plants Kelly responded with a page that could have been taken out of the script for Andy Weir's 2011 book "The Martian," turned into a movie in 2015 directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon.

"...Kelly called down to the ground support team to report new problems with the plants. It seemed the high fan speed was drying out the crop too much, and Kelly said he thought they needed more water. He was told, though, that the next scheduled watering was not until Dec. 27.

“I think that would be too late,” Kelly told the ground team. “You know, I think if we’re going to Mars, and we were growing stuff, we would be responsible for deciding when the stuff needed water. Kind of like in my backyard, I look at it and say ‘Oh, maybe I should water the grass today.’ I think this is how this should be handled.”

Referencing "The Martian," Kelly himself tweeted on December 27, 2015, "Our plants aren't looking too good. Would be a problem on Mars. I'm going to have to channel my inner Mark Watney."


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