Astro-Z in Zero-G: The Diary of A Space Zucchini - A Rose
April 4, 2012
I am about 15 centimeters high now but still only have four leaves. I am vibrant green and happy. My roots still drink this sour tea but it seems to have everything I need. I am reluctant to ask my crewmate where this comes from.
I found out what the tea is made from. Apparently we have a space compost pile. A plastic food bag is filled with a mixture of paper scraps, orange peels, garlic skins, apple cores, and other various food leftovers. Nobody eats the packets of freeze-dried green beans and these seem to compost well. To this was added a teaspoon of dirt from Mother Earth. When kept wet, it stays warm to the touch. Liquid tea, extracted from this mess is what I have to drink. It makes me gag not unlike what my kind has been known to do to little kids at the dinner table. I suppose this is orbital Karma but hey, I am in space and part of this mission and I am standing tall and green.
Light comes in different flavors. Currently I have only one kind. It is becoming boring to my leaves and my stems are reluctant to keep them properly oriented. And it stays on continuously for 24 hours a day. I heard my crewmates discussing this. It is a special light fixture with a flavor balanced to help crews sleep shift. It works for me as well but this constant intensity all with the same flavor is getting to me.
Oh glorious day! I discovered a window with a view - and my leaves sing. It is a small out of the way window tightly packed with stowage. It looks directly at Earth which reflects bright diffuse sunlight off the wintertime clouds. This reflection is so bright that my crewmates need to wear sunglasses else their eyes begin to tear. I drink from this fountain of light and in turn my leaves release extra essence of green, which I can see brings my crewmates’ olfactory pleasures.
No windows here
I am becoming quite popular. I heard one say that he would vacuum the HEPA filters for my gardener if he could have five minutes with his nose close to me.
I have a call sign. I guess a call sign is a fighter pilot thing and was surprised that I could earn such a title. At first someone suggested “Four-Leaf.” I was a bit embarrassed when I heard this since I still only sport four leaves and feel a bit sensitive to this fact. My gardener intervened and said that would not do. He gave me my call sign - “Rose.”
I am becoming confused. 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.
I am making flowers. I do not know if this is from the light or the nutrients in my tea. I currently have four little flower buds, all neatly tucked under my four leaves. It seems that I should be making more leaves, not flowers. Maybe it is because I am in space and this is what zucchinis are supposed to do.
I learned that my gardener has a gardener too. Only his gardener does not water him but speaks to him from a panel on the wall. His gardener must be very important. They stop whatever they are doing whenever he calls.
My flower buds are developing. I will soon be in full orange bloom. My gardener is behaving like an expecting father. There is excitement in the air.
One of my buds opened today and is in full bloom. Surprisingly, it does not open all the way but looks more like an inverted orange umbrella that got stuck at the halfway point. My spherical shaped stamens give off a tantalizing essence. My gardener did not tell his crewmates about this and kept me all to himself.
My gardener made special arrangements for a two way video conference with a special Earth-flower. When all the arrangements had been made, he took me from my window and placed me center stage in front of the video camera. She was a very attractive flower all neatly dressed. He said to her, “I can not offer you much; I can only give you a space zucchini.” The image of my orange blossom was beamed across the void between spacecraft and Earth. Her heart melted. I felt as much a rose as any rose could ever be. He picked my flower and opened a large book, an atlas. Placing my bloom on the map of Texas, over Houston town, he closed the book and clamped it shut with a piece of Kapton tape. He said come July, when our mission is over, he will present this to her in person. I thought that something must be wrong for both of them had tears. In space, tears do not run down your cheeks but remain as a glob in the corner of your eye.
To be continued...
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