NASA wants to grow vegetables on the moon by 2015

Scott Sutherland

It's been over 40 years since we've been back to the moon, and around 14 years since we should have been living there, but NASA actually hasn't given up on the idea. In 2015, they will land a mission on the lunar surface to test how plants will grow there — a key factor for whether or not a long-term lunar colony would work.

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"If we send plants and they thrive, then we probably can," NASA wrote in a statement about the Lunar Plant Growth Experiment. The tiny plant habitat, flown to the moon on board the Moon Express lander, will contain trays of Arabidopsis, basil, and turnip seeds, which will be monitored for 5-10 days to see if they germinate. If they do, their growth will be compared to growth of similar seeds here on Earth, and the experiment will be expanded from there.

Plant growth in both Earth gravity and the micro-gravity of low-Earth orbit are well known, but we don't have a lot of information on how plants grow in low gravity like that on the moon. We can build habitats to contain Earth-like atmosphere and we can shield against radiation like Earth's atmosphere does, but we can't make the moon's gravity any stronger. So, an experiment like this is a great way to see what challenges we may face when trying to grow food and plants for oxygen in a moon base.

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