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Feb 15, 2016 04:23 PM EST

ISS Conducts Gardening Experiment in Tandem With Ground Team

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NASA scientists took an important step forward in space-based gardening over the weekend during an experiment in which crewmembers harvested their plants at the same time people on the ground at the Kennedy Space Center.

"I think we've learned a lot about doing this kind of experiment. We're being farmers in space," NASA astronaut Scott Kelly said in a blog post published Friday. "I was extra motivated to bring the plants back to life. I'm going to harvest them on Valentine's Day."

The Kennedy team harvested its zinnia plants on Thursday, aiming to do so in the same manner the ISS crewmembers would do so days later. Regardless, the ISS' zinnia plants were subject to "stressors" the plants on Earth are not.

Growing vegetables in space is considered an important aspect to NASA's future deep space missions, including the Journey to Mars. Kelly has also been integral to such plans as a participant in the Year in Space mission.

"We need to learn a tremendous amount to help develop more robust sustainable food production systems as NASA moves toward long-duration exploration and the journey to Mars," Gioia Massa, NASA Kennedy payload scientist for Veggie, said in the post. "We are learning a tremendous amount from Veggie about plants and plant-human-microbial interactions as part of NASA's Space Biology Program.

"And the knowledge gained on food productions helps fill gaps and mitigate food system risks."

(Source: NASA)

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