NASA Launches Lunar Garden Project: One Small Step for Man, One Large Step for Turnips
Step aside urban ag, bow down veridical farming, NASA is launching an agriculture program that officially takes the title of most awesome farm location: they're taking turnips, basil, and arabidopsis (a small flowering plant related to mustards and cabbage) to the moon.
The goal, officially part of a program called the the Lunar plant growth experiment, is to demonstrate the feasibility of a lunar garden to supplement astronauts meals.
Like Us on Facebook
As anyone who has tried to keep a house plant alive can imagine, the effort isn't as straightforward as dropping seeds into the lunar dust and coming back a few weeks later. Most plants are uniquely adapted to their local environment which is why you can't grow sugar cane in Vermont, and you can't grow sugar maple trees in Florida. The lunar seeds are no exception.
To ensure that they have at least a chance to withstand lunar radiation the seeds will be housed within a sealed chamber designed to support germination and growth that is self-sustaining: picture a hyper sealed terrarium. The focus is primarily on seed germination, or the initial growth of a seed from seed to plant, because germination is the first step in plant growth and has yet to be properly studied within a lunar context. Earlier studies have looked at the effects of growing plants in a zero gravity environment on various space stations and shuttles, and this project represents an extension of those prior efforts.
Photographs will be taken at regular intervals to enable the projects scientists to look at growth rate, phototropism —how the plants react to light — and circumnutation, which is the circular growing patter of plants, according to NASA. "Survival to 14 days demonstrates plants can sprout in the Moon's radiation environment at 1/6 g. Survival to 60 days demonstrates that sexual reproduction (meiosis) can occur in a lunar environment. Survival to 180 days shows effects of radiation on dominant & recessive genetic traits. Afterwards, the experiment may run for months through multiple generations, increasing science return," a NASA press release said.
No word, however, on whether NASA scientists have considered growing hops (for space "craft" beer).
© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.