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Expeditions Diaries Expedition 31: Letters to Earth Diary of a Space Zucchini, Part 5
Diary of a Space Zucchini, Part 5
Source: NASA Blogs
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Missions
Posted:   01/07/13

Summary: Don Pettit, member of the Expedition 31 crew, continues to document the life of a zucchini grown in orbit on the International Space Station. Studying how plants grow in space can help astrobiologists understand how Earth life adapts to the space environment.

June 9-13 - Diary of a Space Zucchini
Jun 25, 2012 03:24:28 PM


June 9
Great news; I have a baby brother sprout! Gardener just showed me baby Zuc. He is strong and healthy and ready to move from the sprouter into his own aeroponic bag. While Broccoli and Sunflower are great companions, there is nothing quite like having a zucchini to zucchini conversation.

Baby Zuchinni. Credit: Don Pettit


June 10
Baby Zuc has developed his hull spreader! We have tough seed pods and sometimes they do not split in half like they should thus trapping the cotyledons inside and causing the sprout to die. We have a special bump on our stem that catches on our seed pod and spreads the hulls open so the new leaves can emerge undamaged. Previous ideas on this required gravity to direct our stem to grow this bump but we seem to be able to do this without a gravitational signal. On the frontier, even a baby sprout can teach us something new.

Another image of the baby Zuchinni. Credit: Don Pettit


June 11
Gardener has been busy. We have a new Sunflower sprout. Sunflower is elated and can hardly wait to show Sprout his blossom.

The baby Zuchini has developed his hull spreader. Credit: Don Pettit


June 12
A great sadness has taken us all; Sunflower sprout died. He became weak and his cotyledons could not emerge from the hull. Gardener performed surgery and carefully removed the hull but it was too late. We returned sprout to the compost from whence he came. I guess we are all made out of recyclable materials.

Sunflower sprout. Credit: Don Pettit


June 13
One of our machines that removes carbon dioxide from the air failed last night and the carbon dioxide is now at nearly half a percent. The animal part of our crew breathes in oxygen and gives off carbon dioxide. The current level is enough to give animals stuffy noses and headaches but for us plants, this is like being in a sweet greenhouse. On Earth the atmosphere is about 0.04 percent. Broccoli, Sunflower and I are doing all we can to breath in the carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. Even the algae are doing their part. I would say these stowaways have now become part of the crew. I find it interesting how plants and animals complement each other. Meanwhile, Gardener is working on fixing the machine. He has wires and tweezers and a big head lamp. His head remained buried inside the machine for quite some time before he came out. He said it was a bad temperature sensor that shut down the scrubber. Now it is working and the level of carbon dioxide is beginning to drop. I told Broccoli and Sunflower they should enjoy the sweetness while they can.

A sunflower on the ISS. Credit: Don Pettit


June 17-26 - Diary of a Space Zucchini
Jun 27, 2012 12:37:26 PM


June 17
Excitement is in the air. Gardener said we will soon be returning to Earth. Our part of the mission is nearly complete and the new crew will take over for us. I am a bit worried about Broccoli, Sunflower, and me. If Gardener leaves, who will take care of us? And what about little Zuc? He is now a big sprout and ready to branch out on his own. Gardener talked about pressing us. I am not sure what that means; this does not sound good.

Left to right: Don Pettit, Oleg Kononenko, Andre Kuipers. Credit: Don Pettit


June 21
Gardener and crew wore their spacesuits today. This is something Broccoli, Sunflower, little Zuc and I do not have. They spent time in the part of the spaceship that breaks off and falls back to Earth. It is very cramped inside. It must be their version of a seed pod.

June 24
Sunflower is going to seed! His blossom is wilted-brown and has a few lopsided packed seeds. This is not quite normal, but then, we are living on the frontier and things are different here. They are not ready now; I wonder if they will be by the time Gardener is with his seed pod?

Another image of the sunflower grown on the ISS. Credit: Don Pettit


June 26
Gardener has this big book. He called it an atlas, a map of Earth. It is normally kept by the big window but now it is stuck to the wall right next to Broccoli, Sunflower, little Zuc, and I. He also transplanted us into new bags. This time the bags are very small, just enough to contain our root ball and a splash of water. He told us that he will soon be leaving and that we will return later in the belly of a Dragon.


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