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Space Moon

NASA Will Send Seeds to the Moon In 2015 92

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the gardening-for-nerds dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Telegraph reports that NASA plans to send turnip, cress, and basil seeds to the Moon inside a specially constructed canister, known as the Lunar Plant Growth Chamber. The chamber will carry enough air for 10 days and NASA says the air in the chamber would be adequate to allow the seeds to sprout and grow for five days. It is hoped that the latest experiment will help to pave the way for astronauts to grow their own food while living on a lunar base. NASA says it will use natural sunlight to germinate the plants inside the chamber and the seeds will grow on pieces of filter paper laden with nutrients. 'If we send plants and they thrive, then we probably can. Thriving plants are needed for life support — food, air, water — for colonists. And plants provide psychological comfort, as the popularity of the greenhouses in Antarctica and on the Space Station show.' The Lunar Plant Growth Chamber is expected to weigh around 2.2lbs and will also carry 10 seeds each of basil and turnips. Upon landing on the Moon a trigger would release a small reservoir of water to wet the filter paper and initiate the germination of the seeds. Photographs of the seedlings would be taken at regular intervals to monitor their progress and compare them to seedlings being growing in similar conditions on Earth."
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NASA Will Send Seeds to the Moon In 2015

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  • Human Spirit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @02:50PM (#45598187)

    Let's grow stuff anywhere we can. We are creators much more than destroyers.

    • by Nexus7 (2919)

      Human spirit? OK. What about NASA spirit? You know, man on the moon, Pioneer going wherever the hell it is going, and things of that scale? I mean, I understand budgets, and maybe this is one experiment of 1000 in its mission, but a self-sustaining bio-dome, with solar-powered robots tending to it, plants, arthropods; some way to bootstrap living conditions, and then solar and recycling to maintain it - that'd be more like it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Great, more invasive species, we are destroyers much more than creators.
      Now that we have perfected fucking up our planet, lets start on others.

      • by tibman (623933) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @07:52PM (#45603105) Homepage

        I'm sorry, is there some delicate ecosystem of dust on the moon that we should protect?

        • After leaving the cast of The Simpson's, Cleatus Spuckler expanded his dirt farming operations into a multi-million dollar corporation. He has stated to shareholders that he plans to expand his operations onto the moon, to farm that beautiful lunar dirt.

  • When they send the next man there.

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      that's funny, because as of yet Chinese only talk of going to moon. they do not have a rocket system with the capacity to achieve that

      • by bre_dnd (686663)
        For a man perhaps not yet -- but you did see this one right? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25178299 [bbc.co.uk]
        • by rubycodez (864176)

          sure, but divide the payload capacity of that Long March 3B rocket by the Saturn V's and let me know the number, well over 30 I believe

          • by rubycodez (864176)

            s / by / into

          • note that next year, they will have the LM5, which will do 25 tonnes to LEO. SatV was 120 tonnes, so only 5x.
            However, at the same time that LM5 comes, SpaceX will launch FH which will do 53 tonnes to LEO. Throw in a raptor engine as a tug, hooked to a BA-330, and we can send 5-7 ppl to the moon easily. And this is doable by 2020. All that is needed are crafts that can land on the moon and take off again. Thankfully, NASA and others (including SpaceX) are working on this.
        • China's plan is NOT sending man to moon until AFTER 2035

          By then, if everything has gone according to plan, China would have a full fetch space station in the orbit which has the capability of assembling rockets (which are sent up part by part) and then launch them into whichever destination they are supposed to go to (be it moon or mars or beyond)

          That is why China is not, and does not yet have any plan to build a rocket as powerful as the Saturn V rocket

          • by rubycodez (864176)

            China has said by 2025 they will put man on moon, look it up.
            The Proton rocket used to send up parts of the ISS had twice the payload capacity for LEO as this Chinese rocket. And the ISS is not the kind of station that can assemble lunar rockets.

            China has a long, long way to go.

          • wrong. They have LM5 (25 tonnes to LEO) coming in 2014, and they have already started work on a 100+ tonne to LEO LV.
  • Why not something easier/more efficient like seaweed?

    Unfortunately seems like more of a publicity thing.

    • Re:Basil? (Score:4, Funny)

      by NEDHead (1651195) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:18PM (#45598689)

      The Sea of Tranquility is not a sea in the normal sense, so seaweed doesn't really make sense.

    • Re:Basil? (Score:5, Informative)

      by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex@ p ... r e trograde.com> on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:28PM (#45598895)

      If you look at the choices they're different types of plants that provide different things: Basil / Cress, seasoning, greenery -- You eat the leaves. Turnip, a tuberous plant with starch / calories -- you eat the root. I recall a prior story about this that also listed Sunflower seeds: Oils, proteins -- You eat the seeds; And another small flowering plant which herpetologists have gene sequenced and use as a model... Can't recall its name, ATM.

      From TFSA (the fucking space agency): [nasa.gov]

      Plant growth at Earth gravity has been well studied and there has been a lot of research on plant growth in microgravity on Shuttle and Space Station. Recently, ISS payloads have been able to simulate partial gravity (eg. Kiss et al. 2012, Planta 236, 635-645.). The surface of the Moon however is the only location in which the effects of both lunar gravity and lunar radiation on plant growth can be studied. Eventually human exploration of the Moon will require plant growth systems for life support. Germination is the first step in plant growth and thus forms the focus of this first experiment. We will also look for phototropism and circumnutation. The basic data from the experiment would be the growth rate, expressed as leaf area, over time. This would be extracted from images of the plant growth area. In addition image data would be collected to investigate both phototropism (plant motion in response to changes in position of the light source) and circumnutation (plant circular motion). The growth and movement of the plants on the Moon would be compared to similar data from Earth controls in identical growth units.

      The growth rates will be important for determining how much space will be required to grow food to feed Astronauts who take extended trips to the moon base. Of course it'll have the crew rotated like the ISS due to atrophy in weaker gravity, but they may be able to stay longer on the moon's gravity than in orbital microgravity.

      This research isn't a waste of money or publicity thing. The question isn't can we grow a plant on the moon, it's can we grow tasty edible things up there and eventually get a few of our eggs out of this one basket. The moon is made of the same ratios of elements the Earth is. This means we may eventually be able to dome over some craters or caves / mines, and get plants and microbes -- possibly genetically engineered life -- to break down the rock into organic chemical rich dirt and air, then grow other crops. We're a long way away from bio-dome construction and lunar microbes; However, we have the technology to launch and connect a lunar habitat, and possibly grow plants therein -- We already know for sure that plants can grow in near zero G.

      Exposing seeds to UV or Cosmic Rays is one way to accelerate mutation and this is currently used to speed up cultivation of desirable traits in crops -- Moon crop technology could help feed people on Earth. I always think about space exploration when I brush my teeth with the non-toxic toothpaste and clean water sanitation system that NASA invented for Astronauts and terra lubbers alike.

      • s/herpetologists/botanist/
        Herbology / herbalism / herbal medicine isn't what I meant either. Bad combination of brain fart and auto-correct.

      • UV or Cosmic Rays is one way to accelerate mutation

        We now return to "Killer Basil Women on the Moon" with no further commercial interruptions.

      • by byeley (2451634)

        The point was that "tasty edible things" is an unearned luxury; we haven't figured out the sustainability part yet. The research may prove useful in the long run, but it's jumping the gun (presumably because "We can grow the things you eat at home on the moon!" sounds better for publicity purposes).

        The massive inefficiencies in our food production (and the fact that we scoff at things like the UN report on edible insects) is frustrating, but extending that to an environment harsher than any on Earth is down

      • Can't recall its name

        Arabidopsis thaliana is likely the plant you're thinking of. Fruit fly of the plant world it is.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by RenderSeven (938535)
      Why not send corn, and get the ethanol subsidy? Or better yet, send nothing and get a check for basil price supports. NASA could presumably use the money and there is a lot of moon to not grow stuff on.
    • by uberjack (1311219)
      Yes dear?
    • by lxs (131946)

      If they can grow basil on the moon they can grow anything.

      I can't even keep basil alive on my windowsill.

  • by Loether (769074) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:02PM (#45598393) Homepage

    I wonder if they sent a mouse or appropriate sized o2 to co2 animal how long the seeds could grow. I guess you'd also need a heater to keep the mouse alive in the cold of space. They could send a little bit of radioactive material to help regulate the temp. It just seems a shame to go all the way to the moon for a 5 day experiment.

    • by javajawa (126489)
      among other experiments...
    • I wonder if they sent a mouse or appropriate sized o2 to co2 animal how long the seeds could grow. I guess you'd also need a heater to keep the mouse alive in the cold of space. They could send a little bit of radioactive material to help regulate the temp. It just seems a shame to go all the way to the moon for a 5 day experiment.

      Don't send a mouse... send fruit flies or aphids. That way, you've got something that can eat the plants without totally killing them as well as cycle the O2 to CO2. Plus, PETA doesn't tend to get upset about experiments on fruit flies and aphids for some reason.

      • PETA doesn't tend to get upset about experiments on fruit flies and aphids

        PETA? People for the Ethical Treatment of Aphids? I dont think they would like it at all!

      • by antdude (79039)

        Hey now. Ants and I, as your overlord, would get upset with aphids. Ants 3 them! I am still upset after that ant colony and others were lost from Columbia space shuttle landing disaster back in 2003. :~(

    • I guess you'd also need a heater to keep the mouse alive in the cold of space.

      Pretty sure you'd need some sort of temperature regulation for seeds to sprout in space, most tend to now like to start growing while it's still winter for some reason.

      Also space isn't really cold in the same sense that touching something cold is, it's an excellent insolator of heat.

      • "Revenge is a dish best served cold. It's very well insulated in space" Just doesn't have the same effect.

    • I wonder if they sent a mouse or appropriate sized o2 to co2 animal how long the seeds could grow.

      Because you start simple and work your way up when doing these kinds of thing. And because seeds convert very little CO2 to O2 because they consume very little CO2. The mouse would be dead pretty quickly.

      I guess you'd also need a heater to keep the mouse alive in the cold of space. They could send a little bit of radioactive material to help regulate the temp

      But then, once on the warm surface of the

  • Cruelty (Score:4, Funny)

    by razvan784 (1389375) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:07PM (#45598483)
    "NASA is performing an inhumane act by needlessly killing living organisms on Moon mission, wasting taxpayer money on a cheap publicity stunt", says animal rights group that became notorious a few posts ago for trying to grant chimps person status. "Plants are living things too, and one cannot simply destroy them for entertainment", said group spokesperson in an exclusive interview.
    • I think he should stop being a hypocrite eating salads and other plant-based nutrients then. He could become like this super vegan or something for like a month or so before he dies of starvation =P
      • by pne (93383)

        I think he should stop being a hypocrite eating salads and other plant-based nutrients then. He could become like this super vegan or something for like a month or so before he dies of starvation =P

        They're called "fruitarians", eating only what falls off the plant by itself, rather than a portion of a living, growing plant.

  • by SkOink (212592) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:29PM (#45598909) Homepage

    The moon is pretty dry. If if this is supposed to be some proof-of-concept for growing food in a lunar base/colony, don't they need to address the larger issue of where such a garden would get its water?

    If we have to transport the water to the moon as well as all of the raw materials (dirt, plant nutrients), what possible savings could there be against just stocking a base with MREs?

    • MREs don't take in CO and give out O2.
    • Plants provide multiple benefits beyond just food. They recycle CO2 into oxygen, and they look damned pretty, which will probably help ward off a case of the crazies better than a storage room full of foil wrappers.

      • by cbhacking (979169)

        They're also self-replacing. MREs don't fill (or recycle) themselves. If it was possible to reach a point where food could be grown sustainably for even a few people, that would be a huge boon toward more permanent research outposts (think Antarctic research stations or the ISS, not Luna City or a Mars colony). For that matter, that would be the first step toward making a viable colony too... you may not be able to make one completely self-sufficient out of current tech, but you should try to get closer tha

  • should monitor plant germination and subsequent growth for months, would be much more useful knowledge

    • by CCarrot (1562079)

      should monitor plant germination and subsequent growth for months, would be much more useful knowledge

      That was my first thought as well.

      Of course, what this will do is see if the whole concept is viable without committing too much in case it flops. If they won't even sprout, no point in proceeding with more elaborate (and expensive) experiments until you figure out what went wrong with this one, but still, it does seem to be a bit short a timeframe to gain much more than a proof-of-concept level of data. I suppose they're just trying to keep the payload small...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No - consider the moon's rotation and you will soon see any given spot on the surface gets about 14 days of sun followed by 14 days of darkness. If this trip is well timed, the pod can experience the 10 days of maximum sun in the middle. Seeds surviving 14 days in the dark is unlikely, so even if the pod had air for two months, the plants would still be dead after the first lunar 'night'.

      • How much light would the moon get from earthshine during lunar night? Would it be enough for low-light species to get by?

      • by rubycodez (864176)

        The plants don't have to be in darkness for 14 days, there could be "grow lamps", maybe running off storage system charged during the sunlight times. artificial nights during the 14 days of sunlight is even more easily solved.

        • You don't want artificial nights, plants are quite happy with an arctic summer.
          • Oops, self-correction after finally reading one of the linked articles: "Plants do most of their respiration at night, so keeping them in constant sunlight means they're unable to exhale." So unless they use arctic-specific plants they need a night. I'd think heating and cooling would be the biggest problem really on the moon.
        • Now you've turned a 1kg micro-experiment which consists of some seeds stuck to nutrient-soaked tissue paper inside a clear plastic panel with a webcam attached, bolted onto the side of someone else's lander, into something that requires perhaps a cubic metre of volume, lights, heaters, an irrigation system, months of air, and a power-source that can survive 14 days of continuous darkness every month, and almost certainly a dedicated launch (and lander).

          • by rubycodez (864176)

            in other words, an experiment with some hope of relevance to solving problem of actually growing crops on the moon. yes, thank you for your perception.

  • Why would you not send Marigolds [wikipedia.org] if you had a chance for such an experiment? Besides, we will need bees on the moon; so we're going to need flowers. Plants don't pollinate themselves.
    • Plants don't pollinate themselves.

      Some plants, like tomato, eggplant, okra, pepper, eggplant and the common bean, do just that. Others, like corn, are wind pollinated, and still others, like root/bulb crops (potato, sweet potato, onion, carrot, cassava, yam, taro, parsnip, ect.), cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage, ect.), leafy greens (lettuce, celery, spinach, leek, ect.), and a good number of herbs/spices (basil, oregano, garlic, chives, dill, wasabi, cilantro, ginger, ect.), don't need pollination to produce a crop.

  • Study The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds [wikipedia.org].

    Shy Matilda "Tillie" Hunsdorfer prepares her experiment, involving marigolds raised from seeds exposed to radioactivity, for the science fair. She is, however, constantly thwarted by her mother Beatrice, who is self-centered and abusive, and by her extroverted and unstable sister Ruth, who submits to her mother's will. Over the course of the play, Beatrice constantly tries to stamp out any opportunities Tillie has of succeeding, due to her own l
  • Should have sent dandelion seeds, those damn things will grow anywhere! And they're technically edible...but still annoying.

    • My mother made dandelion wine one year. It took us eight years to get through two gallons of it. Hella potent stuff. Just what the moon needs.

  • http://asi.org/adb/06/09/03/02/093/redhousing.html [asi.org] This 1996 publication "Breeding Plants for the Mars Environment" seemed to put more thought into what species are likliest to thrive (on Mars), and was less human-centric. It does seem to make sense to test lichens, cacti, a wider variety of plants known for resilience in addition to turnips and basil.
  • A day on the Moon lasts 29.5 of our Earth days. In other words, if you were standing on the surface of the Moon, it would take 29.5 days for the Sun to move entirely through the sky and return to its original position.

    I'm not sure why they're not sending spores up first. Mycelium is capable of living off of the oxygen that's supposedly in the moon's soil (H2O) and is capable of providing carbon. And they don't care about light.

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