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Heroes

Why NASA is celebrating this photo of a seemingly ordinary zinnia.

Astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren accomplished something that had never been done before in 55 years of space travel.

The vacuum of space.

Photo by ogunhe/Deviant Art.


A cold, forbidding place where nothing grows.

Photo by Lunar and Planetary Institute/Flickr.

Too many of our best fictional characters have died there.

GIF from "Gravity"/Warner Bros.

GIF from "Star Wars"/20th Century Fox.

GIF from "Armageddon"/Buena Vista Pictures.

But space may have just taken an important first step to rehabilitate its reputation as a stone-cold extinguisher of being.

In a long-overdue public relations move, the infinite void decided to take a break from asphyxiating George Clooney to not only just create, but straight-up foster some life for once.

Specifically, this really awesome-looking zinnia, a type of sunflower.

Photo by Scott Kelly/NASA.

The zinnia was grown by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. It is the first flower ever successfully grown in 55 years of manned space travel.

According to a NASA press release, astronaut Kjell Lindgren initiated the zinnia-growing project back in November.

The crew of the International Space Station has been stepping up its botany game since May of 2014 when the Veggie plant growth facility was installed. The largely automated setup includes clay pods to anchor the plants and facilitate water distribution in the limited gravity environment and artificial light to simulate conditions on Earth. The team started and were eventually successful growing lettuce before turning their attention to the more difficult zinnias.

When Kelly noticed a month into the project that the flowers, "weren't looking too good," he radioed ground control for help.

Together, they decided that, rather than depend on the automated system, Kelly would simply take care of the flowers himself, as if he were gardening in his backyard. A team of veggie specialists (NASA, apparently, has a team of veggie specialists) sent Kelly a one-page guide to tell him what problems to look for and how to adjust his watering schedule to correct them, which he used to nurse the plants back to health.

Scott Kelly, artist's rendering. GIF from "The Martian"/20th Century Fox.

It may seem like a small thing, but successfully growing a flower in space actually helps pave the way for bigger, better space travel in the future.

"The challenging process of growing the zinnias provided an exceptional opportunity for scientists back on Earth to better understand how plants grow in microgravity, and for astronauts to practice doing what they’ll be tasked with on a deep space mission: autonomous gardening," NASA wrote in a blog post about Kelly and Lindgren's botanical breakthrough.

In other words, thanks to the tireless efforts of our astronauts, we are one step closer to the ultimate goal of any forward-looking, post-industrial society: landing Matt Damon on Mars.

GIF from "The Martian"/20th Century Fox.

Let's go for it, world.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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