Sunday, 24 June 2012

Orchid space therapy

We go back in time to a strange story from 1980, when it was reported that two Soviet cosmonauts aboard the Salyut space were instructed to tend orchids during their stay ‘to help keep up their spirits’, Tass reported. The flowers were cultivated in a greenhouse shipped to Salyut-6 apparently aboard the Progress cargo craft which docked with Salyut before cosmonauts Leonid Popov and Valery Ryumin (pictured on this contemporary Russian stamp) boarded the station.

The orchid they grew was called Cosmonaut – not a very original name, but there you go.

If that isn’t odd, there’s more.

In 1988, Vladimir Tyurin, 36, a gardener at the botanical gardens flower-napped Cosmonaut from the Academy of Sciences botanical garden in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. He planned to sell it on the black market to an orchid collector. Sadly, the flower died during the bungled attempt.

Cosmonaut was considered priceless and was still being used in biological and genetic experiments because of its space origin. The newspaper said years of study had been wasted because of the early demise of the space orchid, the only one ever grown in a weightless environment.

This wasn’t the first of Tyurin’s botanical escapades. Police followed a trail of rare flowers sold recently on the black market in their eight-day hunt. They arrested Tyurin, who used his pass key to the hot houses for the raid.The only flaw in his scheme was that he failed to remove the tags identifying the stolen flowers as coming from the Academy of Sciences garden in Kiev, making it easy for police to trace their origin. Tyurin would sell the rare orchids to collectors in Moscow at handsome prices. For one shipment of top grade orchids he earned more than $3,200.

PK