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NASA to attempt to grow vegetables on the moon

Monday, December 09, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: NASA, growing vegetables, the moon


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(NaturalNews) There are parts of the earth where plant life simply doesn't grow well, if at all. But that isn't deterring NASA from attempting to grow veggies on the moon.

According to Britain's Daily Telegraph, the space agency that put men on the moon will attempt to grow vegetables and herbs on the lunar surface to see if humans could someday actually live there.

Obviously, there is no atmosphere surrounding the moon that could sustain life, so NASA scientists aren't merely thinking of taking a spacecraft there someday and tossing some seeds into the moon's surface of space dust.

Rather, the British report said, NASA "plans to send seeds to the moon in 2015 in sealed canisters containing everything that is needed for the seedlings to thrive."

Humans would need to grow food to survive on the moon

More from the Telegraph:

As well as ten seeds each of basil and turnips, there will also be around 100 seeds of Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard.

On landing, a trigger will release a small reservoir of water inside the canister and a team on Earth will monitor how the seeds germinate when exposed to lunar gravity and radiation.

A group of scientists, students and volunteers - known as the Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team - are behind the project which will see the seedlings photographed at intervals to compare with those planted on earth.

The air in the sealed containers should be adequate for more than 5 days of growth.


"They can test the lunar environment for us, acting as a canary in a coal mine," a NASA spokesman told the paper. "If we send plants and they thrive, then humans probably can."

As stated earlier, however, for plants to thrive they require the same components as human beings - food, air and water.

And besides providing sustenance, they can give humans some psychological comfort as well, as evidenced by greenhouses that are popular in Antarctica and the International Space Station.

Here's how the space agency plans to do this:

NASA plans on sending the seedlings to the moon by hitching a lift on a commercial spacecraft called the Moon Express lander, which is competing to win Google's Lunar X-Prize in 2015.

Scientists are currently constructing a unit to study the germination of the plants, which will have a mass of just one kilogram and will be deposited on the moon.


NASA says water will then be added to the seeds in the module after landing. The growth of the seedlings will be monitored for five to 10 days and compared with Earth-based control seedlings.

Can they stand the test of time?

Included in the seed trial will be Arabidopsis, basis and turnips, NASA says. The space agency adds that the experiment will be the first of its kind and "an important first step in the utilization of plants for human life support."

NASA also plans for follow-up experiments that the agency says will improve the technology inside the growth module to allow for more comprehensive plant experiments.

If the sprouts make it 14 days, it would demonstrate that they can grow in the moon's radioactive environment. Survival for 60 days would mean that plant sexual reproduction (meiosis) can happen in a lunar environment.

Six-month survival - 180 days - would demonstrate effects of radiation on dominant and recessive genetic traits. After that, the experiment could run for months through multiple generations, which would increase the scientific returns.

NASA and other space agencies have conducted much research on plant growth in microgravity environments, like on space shuttle flights and in the International Space Station. But the lunar surface is the only place "in which the effects of both lunar gravity and lunar radiation on plant growth can be studied," said the Telegraph.

Sources:


http://www.dailymail.co.uk

http://www.nasa.gov

http://www.extremetech.com

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