NASA Moon Garden to Land by 2016

NASA, moon, science

NASA has recently confirmed that an unmanned mission to the moon is scheduled to land by 2016, and gardening is its goal.

Back in May, NASA published a page titled “LPX First flight of Lunar plant growth experiment,” outlining the construction and delivery of a Lunar Plants Mission Lander.

Last week, Robert Bowman, a senior scientist at Lockheed Martin working in conjunction with NASA’s Ames Research Center, confirmed NASA is sending a garden to the moon by 2016.

In an interview with NPR’s Rachel Martin, Bowman outlined some of the mission details.

“What we’re trying to do is to build a tiny little plant habitat that’s about the size of, say, a coffee can. Once we get to the Moon, then, we’re actually gonna grow a whole series of different kinds of plants.”

NASA’s plan

NASA states that their concept was to develop a small, simply designed, sealed “growth chamber,” that would support plant germination over a five to ten-day period. The chamber would allow NASA scientists to “study germination of plants in lunar gravity and radiation.”

Greenhouses have been very popular in Antarctic climes as well as the International Space Station. The presence of plants provides oxygen, food, and the psychological comfort afforded by the presence of life-giving greenery.

Apparently, the chamber has been completed. Its basic details are available on the NASA “lunar plant” page of the NASA website.

The chamber, contained within the housing of the mission lander, would contain enough air for more than 5 days of growth, after that no extra air or processing would be needed. The foundation of the growth chamber is a filter paper. The thin, porous material is infused with nutrients and seeds, and the impact of the landing will release enough water to moisten the paper for the duration of the experiment.

The seeds that have been chosen for the mission include basil, turnips, and a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard named Arabidopsis thaliana, or Rockcress.

Bowman said, “our goal is to show that in a short amount of time, in something in the order of, say, fourteen Earth days of continuous sunlight on the Moon, we’ll be able to show that Earthly life as exemplified by a plant, can thrive on the Moon.”

Bowman says that NASA has more than just hard science on their mind with sending what amounts to as a lunar-landed container-garden to the Moon’s surface. The planned 2016 Moon-garden landing is NASA’s thesis-statement that life can thrive in a lunar environment.

We also want to enable human exploration.

He believes the first step in getting people to the Moon for exploration and colonization is this mission’s proof that the plants that will ultimately feed those trailblazers and lunar-settlers can grown, germinate and reproduce just like they do here on Earth.

How the mission is getting to the moon is unconventional, to say the least.

NASA is a byword in space exploration. This trip, however, isn’t going to happen aboard a NASA funded space shuttle.

They plan on riding piggy-back on the winner of the Google lunar XPRIZE.

Since there are no scheduled moon flights on NASA’s itinerary, NASA will include their relatively small lunar stow-away with the team that takes the gold in the Google-XPRIZE lunar challenge. The $30 million offer was made back in 2007 to encourage private organizations—you can see the teams that have accepted the challenge in the educational 24-minute planetarium show Back To The Moon For Good—to get humanity back to the moon.

The deadline for the award is 2015.

“This is the first time that, really, we have exported earthly life to another planet, “ says Bowman.

We’re going to go to the Moon and we’re going to grow and germinate and thrive there. And ultimately it’s going to take this kind of thing to happen in order for people to become colonizers and go to the Moon, go to Mars, to go to other places in deep space.

For Bowman, the Ames Research Center, NASA, and the human race, the 2016 landing of a A NASA Moon-garden will be the space mission that settles many of the burning questions about the viability of human exploration of the stars.

By Matt Darjany

Sources:

NASA

NPR

XPRIZE

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