Could NASA’s Planned Moon Garden Redefine Farm-to-Table?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 3 2013 8:26 PM

Could NASA’s Planned Moon Garden Redefine Farm-to-Table?

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Is the moon the world's new breadbasket?

Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images

Just as everyone was getting on board with the whole farm-to-table movement and eating locally grown food, NASA is planning to put a wrench in the whole thing by planting a garden on the moon. Really. The space agency’s planning to plant seeds on the moon in 2015 as a test to see if the moon can sustain human life. “They can test the lunar environment for us acting as a ‘canary in a coal mine,’” NASA said in a statement. “If we send plants and they thrive, then we probably can.”

Some of the seeds that will be planted on the moon are basil and turnips, which, if successful, would put the farm pretty far from the table. But, growing plants on the moon’s surface isn’t quite as easy as sticking a few seeds in the ground in your back yard. Here are but a few of the obstacles from the New Scientist:

Factors that could confound lunar plant growth include the virtual absence of an atmosphere and high levels of solar and cosmic radiation that bombard the moon's surface. So the space agency is developing a sealed canister with five days' worth of air, in which seeds can germinate on nutrient-infused filter paper. The idea is that water will be released on touchdown and sunshine will do the rest.
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Easy, right? As for transportation, the seeds will be carried aboard Google’s Lunar X-Prize mission. The Google funded prize offers $20 million, Forbes reports, “for a private company to launch a robotic spacecraft that lands on the moon, travels across the surface, and transmits back two ‘Mooncasts’ by December 31, 2015.”  

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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