The zucchini keeping a diary. In space

by Toby Manhire / 26 April, 2012
Vegetables in space at last have a place to tell their story – on the Nasa website.
Astronauts, eh? It’s an unusual job, and no doubt astromadness is always a risk – after all, we know where the word lunacy comes from.

Perhaps in an effort to offset the risks of a mental powderkeg, a number of astronauts are busy exercising their expressive, creative faculties up there.

As covered before, “Astro Ron” Garan has proved a keen and able tweeter and videographer.

And the Nasa website is full of other diversions. Including the Space Diary of a Zucchini.

Co-hosted by Airspace Mag, the zucchini diaries, which chronicle the journey from seed aboard the International Space Station, began on January 5 like this:

I sprouted, thrust into this world without anyone consulting me. I am not one of the beautiful; I am not one that by any other name instills flutters in the human heart. I am the kind that makes little boys gag at the dinner table thus being sent to bed without their dessert. I am utilitarian, hearty vegetative matter that can thrive under harsh conditions. I am zucchini – and I am in space.

Over the months the zucchini has shared its progress and struggles – especially with the light:

These 16 short periods of day and night every 24 hours are making me jet-lagged. My photosynthesis activity just gets going and then abruptly shuts down. Repeating this cycle is putting me into a dither. My leaves do not sing as loud.

As well as providing an account of the prospects for galactic greenhousing, the diligent vegetable has also kept readers abreast of developments on the space station. The latest dispatch:

We had a long and tiring week. There was much activity that took us well into Friday evening. We were all looking forward to some off duty time. Gardener said he would treat us to some window time. There is nothing like catching a few rays to green up the foliage.

Saturday morning, the big gardener that speaks from the wall told us the cargo vehicle had an electrical failure and might need to undergo a contingency undock in the next day or two. It was planned to stay docked for months where we could unpack the supplies in an orderly process over a three-week period. To save our precious supplies, we had one day to do three weeks of work. With all the large bags floating by, it was good to stay out of the way. Any one of them could have easily smash us into salad.

Later that evening, Gardener came by and we presented him with our vibrant green and tickled his nose with our fresh aroma. When we saw a tired smile come to his face, we knew we had done our part in this contingency.

The zucchini is a busy vegetable, so has a ghost writer, astronaut Don Pettit.

Pettit does his own stuff, too, including some impressive long-exposure photography and poetry. A sample few lines, on life in space:

A place where you won't be skinning your knee

where the biggest problem is "How does one pee?"

(it is best to avoid preflight coffee or tea)

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