“The farther and longer humans go away from Earth, the greater the need to be able to grow plants for food, atmosphere recycling and psychological benefits,” according to Gioia Massa, NASA Kennedy Space Center who was a payload scientist for Veggie in May, 2014.
“I think that plant systems will become important components of any long-duration exploration scenario.”
This is actually not the first time a plant is been successfully grown on the International Space Station. In fact, lettuce has been grown and even eaten before in the Station, while the orange zinnia is not even edible. The reason why this achievement is significant is because the orange zinnia is much more difficult to grow compared to the lettuce. Variables such as sun light become much more sensitive in this case.
“Growing a flowering crop is more challenging than growing a vegetative crop such as lettuce,” said Massa.
“Lighting and other environmental parameters are more critical.”
Based on this, there is a very good confidence that other plants such as plants that bear fruits and vegetables can be grown on the International Space Station. Plants are grown on the International Space Station with a system called Veggie, which aids plant growth by providing red, blue and green lights to the plant systematically.
“Growing zinnia plants will help advance our knowledge of how plants flower in the Veggie growth system, and will enable fruiting plants like tomatoes to be grown and eaten in space using Veggie as the in-orbit garden,” according to Trent Smith, a program manager at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in a statement last year.