As of now, we can say truthfully that there are other life forms out there in space, with the news that the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have grown their first flower there.
Despite this journalist referring to it as a space flower, it wouldn’t be wise to assume that this flower is some completely alien life form that’s found its way aboard the ISS like a Hollywood horror film, but rather some clever cosmic botany.
The zinnia flower was part of the space station’s Veggie plant growth system aimed to be the testbed for a whole range of biological experiments in space to see what effects would come from attempting to grow plants in zero gravity.
As it turns out, the entire process has been incredibly challenging for all of the astronauts on board, but will eventually be crucial down the line if we are to send crews for deep-space missions who will need to become cosmic botanists to sustain the long journeys.
This flowering experiment began in November last year when Kelly’s fellow NASA astronaut, Kjell Lindgren, rooted the zinnia seeds in a ‘pillow’ to sustain its growth.
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) January 17, 2016
This recent victory for cosmic botany was made even more special given that, back in December, Kelly tweeted an image that appeared to show the plants were really struggling to grow, despite the crew’s best efforts.
At the time, Kelly said to the experts back in NASA that the plants’ caretaking should be a little more ‘down-to-Earth’.
“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,” Kelly said. “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.”
Kelly has since tweeted images of the successful growth of the flower and has whimsically said it to be the first identified life form originating from outer space.