The lunar surface is devoid of plant life, at least as far as we know. With no thriving topsoil, no water, no oxygen and no native plant life, there’s no way anything can grow there. But NASA plans to give it a try.
A group of scientists, students and volunteers known as the Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team will monitor and photograph the seedlings at intervals to compare with those planted on earth. Seeds will include 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, and sunflowers. On landing, a trigger will release a small reservoir of water inside the coffee-can sized aluminum canisters. The team on Earth will monitor how the seeds germinate when exposed to lunar gravity and radiation.
All this will take place in 2015. NASA plans to send the seedlings to the moon by hitching a ride on a commercial spacecraft called the Moon Express lander, which is competing to win Google’s Lunar X-Prize.
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.
A NASA spokesman said: ‘They can test the lunar environment for us, acting as a canary in a coal mine.”
But NASA won’t be working alone. They’ll be working in concert with schools across the U.S. The space agency will send schools their own set of habitats so that they can grow the same plants that will be sent to the Moon. It’s a unique way for NASA to duplicate their experiment and collect vital data and valuable insights.
However it works out, this is sure to be a fascinating experiment and one that could well lead to us heading back to the moon someday.