ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network













Basic Space

Basic Space


Space and astrophysics research made simple
Basic Space Home

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s a space rose

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


Email   PrintPrint



A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. But what if it's grown in space? Image: NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center

Still looking for an extra special Valentine’s gift for tomorrow? Here’s something truly out-of-this-world… Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Overnight Scentsation.

This miniature rose was grown in space, on NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery Flight STS-95, in an ASTROCULTURETM commercial plant growth chamber. Scientists wanted to see whether a rose grown in space really would smell as sweet as its terrestrial counterpart.

Turns out, its scent was different to what it would have been on Earth. Volatile compounds are what make a flower smell the way it does, and they act differently in microgravity. From NASA:

In low gravity [...] the rose actually produced fewer volatiles than it did on Earth. But the fragrance that it did generate was critically altered. The flower in space had a more “floral rose aroma,” which is aesthetically pleasing.

And in case you were wondering exactly how the astronauts and scientists measured the flowers scent:

To collect the scent, they reached into the ASTROCULTURETM chamber and touched the rose using a tiny silicon fiber. Less than one centimeter long, and only 1 to 2 millimeters in diameter, the fiber was coated with a special liquid to which molecules around the flower petal adhere. After the shuttle returned to Earth, researchers took the fiber and analyzed the molecules they found on it.

The rose’s scent was so different from anything earthly that International Flavours & Fragrances (who conducted the research with NASA) commercialised the new fragrance, meaning you can now buy perfume with the ‘space rose’ note. But you’ll have to be quick if you want it in time for tomorrow…

Kelly Oakes About the Author: Kelly Oakes has a master's in science communication and a physics degree, both from Imperial College London. Now she spends her days writing about science. Follow on Twitter @kahoakes.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





Rights & Permissions

Add Comment

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Scientific American Holiday Sale

Give a Gift &
Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription as low as $14.99

Subscribe Now! >

X

Email this Article

X