"Our plants aren't looking too good. Would be a problem on Mars. I'm going to have to channel my inner Mark Watney," ISS Commander Scott Kelly tweeted Dec. 27. Credit: Scott Kelly via Twiter

An effort to grow flowers on the International Space Station isn’t going so well.

Scott Kelly reported that the six zinnia plants “aren’t looking too good.” The plants are being grown in the same experiment unit on the station that successfully grew lettuce earlier this year, but some of the zinnia plants are wilting, while others aren’t growing at all.

“Would be a problem on Mars. I’m going to have to channel my inner Mark Watney,” Kelly tweeted, referring to the main character of The Martian.

Our plants aren’t looking too good. Would be a problem on Mars. I’m going to have to channel my inner Mark Watney. pic.twitter.com/m30bwCKA3w

— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) December 27, 2015

Andy Weir, author of The Martianoffered some advice in response. “Have you tried swearing a lot and setting things on fire? Because that worked for him.” [Florida Today / Twitter]

If you haven’t seen The Martian, this deleted scene from the movie will give you a sense of what you’re missing:

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The head of Sea Launch says the commercial launch venture could resume operations in 2016. Sergei Gugkayev said Wednesday that there’s been renewed customer interest since the successful launch earlier this month of a Zenit rocket that was widely reported to be the final mission for that vehicle. He said Sea Launch plans to actively compete for new launch orders in the first quarter of 2016. Sea Launch last carried out a launch in May 2014, and there have been numerous rumors that the venture, owned primarily by RSC Energia, could be sold or moved from its current home port in California. [TASS]

South Korea plans to ramp up work on missions to the moon in 2016. The country’s science ministry said Wednesday that it plans to spend nearly $170 million from 2016 through 2018 to perform research and develop a lunar orbiter. The second phase of that effort features the launch of a lunar lander mission by 2020. South Korea plans to seek deals with other national space agencies, including NASA, to provide payloads for those missions. [Yonhap]

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Russian investigators claim to found evidence of anti-competitive collusion in contracts for the country’s new spaceport. The Federal Antimonopoly Service said it believes three organizations colluded when choosing a contractor for one aspect of the development of the Vostochny Cosmodrome. Such arragements, investigators argue, inflated the cost of the new spaceport, but it wasn’t immediately clear by how much. [TASS]

Russia’s deputy prime minister said the country is not backing away from plans for human missions to the moon. Dmitry Rogozin said Russia was not dropping plans for such missions, and that reports of the program’s demise were “greatly exaggerated.” Russian media reported earlier in the week that the revised 10-year plan for the nation’s space program suspended work on vehicles and other technologies needed for human lunar missions, pushing them back until perhaps the late 2020s. Rogozin added that Russia has also started work on an “ultra-heavy rocket” but offered no additional details. [Sputnik]


Assembly of the mirror for the James Webb Space Telescope is halfway complete. Nine of the 18 mirror segments for the telescope are now in place on the telescope’s structure in work being done at the Goddard Space Flight Center. All 18 segments should be in place by early 2016. JWST is on schedule to launch in late 2018. [NASA/GSFC]

A set of moon rocks given to the British government once was hidden in a cupboard at No. 10 Downing Street. Documents released by the UK’s National Archives show that the four tiny moon rocks, brought to Earth by the Apollo 11 mission and given to then Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1970, were found in in a cupboard at the prime minister’s residence shortly after Margaret Thatcher took office in 1979. Efforts to loan the display, which included a flag also flown on Apollo 11, failed because of a lack of interest: the head of London’s Science Museum likened it to a toothbrush once used by Napoleon. The moon rocks are still at 10 Downing Street today. [BBC]

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...