Gravity Assist: How to Grow Food on the Moon

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Lunar Plants Research Documentation, Tuesday May 18th, 2021.

Space botanists are working on strategies to grow crops on the lunar surface, as NASA makes strides toward sending astronauts to the Moon through the Artemis program. A team of scientists at the University of Florida successfully grew small plants in lunar soil brought back during three different Apollo missions. How did they do it, and what does it mean for the future of space exploration? Dr. Anna-Lisa Paul explains.

Jim Green: Can we grow food on the Moon? This may end up being a fundamental question of survival in space. Let’s talk to a space botanist.

Anna-Lisa Paul The only way that humans can be explorers is if we take our plants with us.

Jim Green: Hi, I’m Jim Green, and this Gravity Assist, NASA’s interplanetary talk show. We’re going to explore the inside workings of NASA and meet fascinating people who make space missions happen. 

Jim Green: I’m here with Dr. Anna-Lisa Paul. And she is the professor of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences. And she is the director of the University of Florida’s Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnological Research.

Jim Green: Dr. Paul and her colleagues just published a fantastic new study. And this study describes how plants grow in samples of lunar soil brought back by astronauts in the Apollo program. Wow! I can’t wait to hear how this was pulled off. So welcome Anna-Lisa to Gravity Assist.

Anna-Lisa Paul: Thank you. Thank you very much. Pleasure to be here.

Jim Green: The paper that’s out now is really exciting, because it tells us that we now have options of going to the Moon and being able to live and work on a planetary surface for long periods of time, because we have an aspect of sustainability by growing food. So is this project something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time?

Anna-Lisa Paul: Absolutely. This is a project that has been sort of on my, and my colleague, Rob Ferl’s radar, for decades, because when you think about if the only way that we can humans can be explorers, is if we take our plants with us. Plants are what allows us to be explorers, they can go past the limits of a picnic basket. So for us who work in space biology, we wanted to know if when we get to a new surface, can we use the resources that are already existing there, the in situ resources? And for the Moon, that would be the regolith, which can be used as the dirt to grow plants.

Two scientists, wearing white lab coats gaze into several large clear boxes, each containing two smaller boxes of six to seven small dark objects. This image in bathed in pink light.
University of Florida researchers Rob Ferl, left, and Anna-Lisa Paul, examine a collection of culture plates – some filled with lunar regolith, some with simulated regolith — under LED lights. Credits: UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones

Jim Green: Well, how hard was it to get your hands on these samples, the original samples from the Apollo program?

Anna-Lisa Paul: It was pretty hard to get those. You have to remember, they’re a national treasure, they are completely irreplaceable in their original form. And so when you have a couple of biologists who go to an institution of higher archiving from NASA of the original Apollo samples, and you say, “Yes, we’d please like to have some of your precious materials and get them all messy and grow plants in them!” They say, “Excuse me, you want to do what?” And so it took three different iterations of proposals, which also include a ton of background information and tests with lunar simulants before we could convince the powers that be that, yes, yes, we will take good care of them. We’re good representatives of what science can be done, and they let us have some. In fact, they let us have 12 grams.

Jim Green: 12 grams. I know that doesn’t sound a lot.

Jim Green: Well, what’s really amazing to me when we think about plants growing in regolith is, is what regolith is. You know, it’s really ground up rock, that comes from impacts over and over, billions of years of impacts on the Moon, blasting everything apart. And when you look at the regolith, this ground-up rock, in a microscope, it’s got all these shards. It’s, it’s very sharp, which is one of the reasons why we’re worried about this regolith, when humans walk around in spacesuits, getting into their lungs.

Jim Green: And so the concept that we can actually grow plants in it, was really amazing. So, tell us about these lunar samples. Did they come from one location or many locations?

Anna-Lisa Paul: So the samples actually came from three locations: from Apollo 11, Apollo 12, and Apollo 17. And so the three sites that the astronauts worked on had different characteristics. All of the materials are what are called basaltic. And so most of them were sort of ground up basalt, lava kind of, kind of materials. But each of the sites were exposed to the surface for different periods of time. And what that means is that the regolith has what’s called different levels of maturity.

Anna-Lisa Paul And so the regolith from the Apollo 11 site, for instance, was more mature. That means it has been exposed to the cosmic wind for longer. So the particles are smaller, the edges are sharper. The Apollo 17 samples were particularly interesting in that it, the type we got was actually a compendium of materials from all over the site, because it was the dirt, if you will, that got caught underneath a bumper on the lunar rover.

Anna-Lisa Paul: And as, as they were leaving, Harrison Schmidt said, wow, there’s a whole bunch of stuff here. Let’s not let that go to waste. And he dumped it all into a bag and it came back to Earth for, for us eventually.

Jim Green: Wow, that’s fantastic. So tell me about the experiment. If you only had a little bit from each of these sites, how are you going to really grow plants in them?

Anna-Lisa Paul: So we used the plant called Arabidopsis thaliana. And the cool thing about Arabidopsis is, in addition to being very well characterized at the genomic level, and gene level, it’s small, it’s really small, and you can actually grow an almost full size plant in a single gram of material.

Jim Green: Wow.

Anna-Lisa Paul: So what we did is we had these specialized plates that are normally used for cell culture, there are only about 12 millimeters across — each one of these little pots, if you will. And we put the regolith inside these little pots and then planted seeds on top of them, watered them from below and: instant lunar garden.

Jim Green: Wow, that’s unbelievable. So you had a regimen of just adding water to the to the seed and that’s all it took?

Anna-Lisa Paul: It took a little bit of nutrients, too.

Jim Green: Okay.

Anna-Lisa Paul: And so how it was set up was a little plug of material called rockwool, which is essentially just spun lava rocks, that makes a sponge, and then the regolith goes on top of that little sponge. And so now the sponge acts as a capillary wick to get liquids up into the regolith. So the nutrient solution that went down into the base of the tray got wicked up into the regolith, and it was essentially watered from below.

Jim Green: Wow, interesting. So then it’s easy to think about how that could work by developing a greenhouse with these kind of attributes on the Moon and then just bringing in the regolith.  

Jim Green: So at the end of the experiment, did you then take apart the regolith to see how the roots grew with in the planter?

Anna-Lisa Paul: We did. Because we planted more than just a single seed at first, when we thinned the little tiny seedlings away to just leave a single plant in each one of those little micro pots, we also got to look at the roots there. And so we could see that the plants that were growing in the simulant, it’s called this JSC-1A, it’s a type of volcanic ash that’s mined on Earth, that’s what we use as our control.

Anna-Lisa Paul: Compared to the lunar regolith, the JSC-1 simulants were nice and long and tapered and looked very healthy, but the roots that were growing in the regolith were kind of scrunched up and they weren’t quite as healthy looking. Nonetheless, once they grew, you could get decent looking plants growing in the regolith. And just to look at them with your eye, they’d look a little smaller than the ones in the controls. But the real key was when you ground them up, and you look at what genes are being expressed.

Jim Green: Now, as you said, you use simulant, which means we think we’ve been able to develop a process that can make lunar-like regolith without bringing it from the Moon. But as you said, already, there’s some differences between that simulant and what the real regolith looks like. But that’s an important control factor. That also helps us figure out if we’re making those simulants correctly or not.

Anna-Lisa Paul: Yup.

Jim Green: So what did you find out?

Anna-Lisa Paul: So when you take a look at the controls, I have to say, any experiment is only as good as your control, right?

Jim Green: Right.

University of Florida researchers Anna-Lisa Paul and Rob Ferl
University of Florida researchers Anna-Lisa Paul and Rob Ferl are seen at the Haughton Crater impact site in northern Canada. NASA uses this crater for Moon and Mars analog research. Credits: Pascal Lee

Anna-Lisa Paul: And so, the control material really did look a lot like the lunar regolith. It behaved a lot like the lunar regolith in the way it absorbed water and the way that it kind of just settled into the pots and everything. But when we’ve looked at the example of even if you take two plants that looked very similar between the control and the lunar regolith grown, we found that the kind of genes that the plants expressed different from the ones that were in the control were mostly genes that are associated with metal stress, like heavy metals, or salts, or what we call oxidative stress.

Jim Green: Oooh!

Anna-Lisa Paul: Even though those materials per se weren’t necessarily in those regoliths. It’s not like the regoliths were actually salty. But the plants perceived the type of stress they were seeing in that material as salt stress, as metal stress. And so that was an interesting insight that they were changing the way they express their genes to adapt to that new and novel environment.

Jim Green: Oooh. So this is really critical to understand. Because once you understand that, there may be processes and procedures that you could do that alleviate that plant stress that allows them on, on the real example, on the Moon in a greenhouse, to then really flourish better than even what you did in the laboratory.

Anna-Lisa Paul: That’s exactly right. That’s button on. So the Arabidopsis is really closely related to some of your favorite vegetables, like, say, broccoli. And we know that if we want our broccoli plants or kale plants to be healthy and growing in the lunar regolith, in a greenhouse, we know that we’ll have to mitigate some of these kind of stress responses. We can do that in two ways. You can engineer their environment by mitigating perhaps some of the materials that are in the regolith, you can also engineer the plants themselves. And you can make them less sensitive to some of these aspects. And so instead of putting their energy into the stress response, they put that energy into making more broccoli.

Jim Green: Right! That’s really a, just a huge advance. By doing this on the Moon, we’re going to also learn the processes and procedures we’ll have to do on Mars. So that will be really critical. S o I really dearly love this idea. So if I was in the lab, and we were done with the experiment, we were taking them apart and looking at the roots, I might be tempted to eat one of these. Did anyone do that?

Anna-Lisa Paul: Well, we didn’t eat any of those because, think about it: they’re a very small and very precious resource that we wanted to save to do the biochemical analyses. You could eat Arabidopsis. People have eaten them before, but it’s not exactly something that would be good in a salad.

Jim Green: (laughs) So not so tasty after all.

Jim Green: I can imagine walking into the lab, when it, when you had started these plants growing. And the first time you realized this was gonna work. What was that like?

Anna-Lisa Paul: Oh, so the preparation that went into this experiment is extraordinary. All the background, all the setup, everything, the way we planted them, every aspect of it was complex. And so then at the end, Rob, and I walk out to our secure growth chamber where these things are going to go, we set them all up under their pink LED lighting systems that will keep them going. And we closed the door and we thought, all right, three days, things should be germinating in three days. Well, two days later, we walked back in there just to kind of check, and we’re looking down at all those plates. And every single one had germinating seeds in it.

Jim Green: Wow!

Anna-Lisa Paul: The controls, the lunar samples, everything was germinating. There’s this tiny nascent greenness, every single one, and it just took our breath away. It worked. It really worked. How cool is that?

Jim Green: You know, it reminds me of the theme in the movie “The Martian,” where Mark Watney goes over to his potato plant that is now growing for the very first time, touches the leaf, and says “hello.”

Anna-Lisa Paul: Yes, exactly.

Jim Green: Wow, that’s great. I can also imagine that this will enable you to think of the next best experiment to do. Have you been thinking about and formulating your next steps?

Anna-Lisa Paul: Oh, absolutely. One of the things that would be wonderful to do is to have additional replicates for this. With four grams each from each site, we could obviously only have four replicates of one individual plant each. Being able to have a larger volume of material so that we could try different kinds of mitigations. All of the samples had to be treated with the same nutrient solution for instance. And so if we had enough material, we could also change the variables of what kind of nutrients we did. Are there other ways to mitigate some of the effects of the regolith? Those are the kinds of things you can only do with more material.

Jim Green: I understand you’ve done some field tests in far off places here on Earth.

Anna-Lisa Paul: Yeah, so I’ve definitely had the privilege to explore some very interesting, what we call analog sites, in the in the world. The first step was, Rob Ferl and I went to the far north Canadian Arctic at an old impact site, called the Haughton Crater on Devon Island. And one of the reasons we went to Devon Island was to practice utilizing in situ resources in a greenhouse that was growing there.

Anna-Lisa Paul: And so we collected these, what we call, brecciated materials from this old impact crater, which was 20-plus miles across, that was very lunar looking. And we’ve use some of those materials in the greenhouse. We also used the JSC-1 simulant in the greenhouse, along with other kinds of materials and asked: Can we populate a greenhouse substrate with these kinds of non-traditional growth substrates to create materials and crops over the winter?

Jim Green: So what did you find out when you did that?

Anna-Lisa Paul: Well, we find that they actually like growing in the JSC-1 simulant a little better than they liked growing in the brecciated materials we dug out of the crater. (laughs) And part of that is because a lot of the materials have different types of chemicals in them that are actually in some ways more analogous to what it would be on Mars. Whereas the lunar regolith is pretty much just devoid of everything, the Martian regolith i, looks to be, although nobody’s brought any back, it looks to be high in, say, perchlorates and other kinds of reactive chemicals that would have to be, again, ameliorated before you could grow plants in it. But you’d be have to be able to use the materials from where you land.

Jim Green: So on the Moon, I imagine we’re going to have a greenhouse, but can we really grow these out in the vacuum of space?

Anna-Lisa Paul: Well, they would have to have a greenhouse just like a human would have to have a greenhouse because that there’s no atmosphere on the surface of the Moon. So all of the plant growth would be being carried on in some kind of greenhouse or other sort of enclosed habitat along with its attending humans.

Jim Green: Well, you know, another part about that, that I like, is the fact that these plants as they grow will smell wonderful. And you get not only this the green of the plant, you also get the smells, and it’s gotta remind astronauts of home.

Anna-Lisa Paul: That that is so true. And I have actually a personal experience that, that speaks to that very well. I mentioned the work that I’ve done in the high Canadian Arctic. Well, I’ve also been down in Antarctica for a while. And again, working on a greenhouse that was essentially called the Future Exploration Greenhouse, part of the Eden ISS project, that was an analogue of what you might find on the Moon or Mars.

Anna-Lisa Paul: I was down there for several days, and the weather was just horrible, and nobody could go outside, it was absolutely impossible, and everything was dark, and bleak and awful. And then, when the weather started to clear just a little bit, we went out to the greenhouse for the first time on that trip and walked into the door, and you’re met by the smells and the moisture and the greenness. And it was like, all of the stress evaporated from all of us. And we were home for a bit. And I can well imagine it would be like that for an astronaut. And you can’t underestimate how powerful, how powerful a plant can be from that context, as well as the fact that it cleans your air and gives you clean water and gives you food. It also gives you something spiritual.

Jim Green: Very nice.

Jim Green: Well, Anna-Lisa, I always like to ask my guests to tell me what that person place or event was that got them so excited about being in the sciences that they are today. And I call that event, a gravity assist. So Anna-Lisa, what was your gravity assist?

Anna-Lisa Paul: Well, gravity assist for me has been people, and the very first person was my mom. And I can remember quite keenly as a little kid asking my mother about how something worked. And she would say, “I don’t know, let’s find out.” And so it was always this, this journey of discovery. I would be given science books as a small kid, even though I couldn’t quite read them at that level. And we’d go through as a family trying to figure out how to do the kind of experiments we could do in the backyard. And I got really interested in plants, because plants were the only things that were taking the energy that comes into the planet, and turning it into stuff that we needed.

Anna-Lisa Paul: So as I got older and started wondering about how plants work, it kept taking me one step after another until I decided I’d like to understand how plants respond to novel environments, and the most novel environment out there is space.

Jim Green: Wow, fantastic. That, that’s a wonderful environment to be in, where you can work with your parents on a journey of discovery, and then realize how you can make a wonderful career out of it. So thanks so much for telling us about this really fundamental and exciting research.

Anna-Lisa Paul: I’m pretty lucky. Thanks.

Jim Green: You’re very, very welcome. Well, next time, we’re going to talk to a researcher at the Kennedy Space Center, who also works on growing plants in space. But in this case, it’s all about astronauts growing them on the space station. You won’t want to miss that. I’m Jim Green, and this is your Gravity Assist.

Credits

Lead producer: Elizabeth Landau

Audio engineer: Manny CooperLast Updated: May 13, 2022Editor: Gary Daines

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fretslider
May 17, 2022 2:28 am

“NASA makes strides toward sending astronauts to the Moon through the Artemis program.”

The botanical results are new, but the souped up Apollo is stuck in the VAB

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  fretslider
May 17, 2022 11:51 am

Exactly! It’s back to future with baby steps, not strides.

NASA has “baselined” the SpaceX Starship Human Landing System (Starship HLS) for the descent/ascent vehicle going to/from the Moon’s surface. Starship HLS has SpaceX Raptor engines (note the use of plural here) mounted at the tail as its primary propulsion system.

Raptor is a family of full-flow staged-combustion-cycle rocket engines developed and manufactured by SpaceX for use on its in-development SpaceX Starship. The engine is powered by cryogenic liquid methane and liquid oxygen.

“However, when it is within ‘tens of metres’ of the lunar surface during descent and ascent it will use high-thrust LOX-methane RCS thrusters located mid-body instead of the Raptors to avoid raising dust via plume impingement.”
(ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemis_program )

So, IMHO, NASA has totally “lost the recipe” regarding the value of the engineering principle known as KISS . . . Keep It Simple, Stupid . . . that worked well on the Apollo lunar lander. The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore, simplicity should be a key goal in design, and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.

On Artemis, NASA has taken the most complex rocket engine power cycle (full-flow, staged-combustion) and then combined that with a mission approach of switching propulsion systems “within tens of metres” of the lunar surface. Gee, I wonder what could possibly go wrong with that?

It gets worse.

The current SpaceX Raptor engine is designed for a vacuum thrust level of 670,000 lbf, although there are variants with thrust levels as low as 410,000 lbf (Raptor 1).

What is critical in consideration of using this engine for the major part of the descent to the lunar surface (i.e., to within tens of meters above the lunar surface) is that the current Raptor engine has a design throttle range of only 40-100% of full thrust, a 2.5:1 throttle ratio (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX_Raptor ).

It is fairly easy to show that to perform a propellant-efficient lunar landing with both abort-to-orbit and hover-prior-to-touchdown capabilities (as done on Apollo lunar missions) one needs a throttle ratio of 4:1 or greater.

{So given my preceding sentence, one might rightfully ask why then did the Apollo program require that its Lunar Excursion Module Descent Engine have a 10:1 throttle range? The answer is two-fold: (1) starting the LEMDE at 10% of full thrust insured that there would be minimum disturbance torques on the lander vehicle as the engine ignited and GNC/ACS responded to any developing thrust torque from that relatively large engine, and, most importantly, (2) NASA implemented a conservative, minimum risk, KISS approach that once the critical landing engine was operating, it should not be turned off/restarted until touchdown was achieved . . . and this was for an engine utilizing pressure-fed, storable, hypergolic propellants, not one like Raptor that uses pump-fed, cryogenic propellants requiring the complexity of a separate ignition system. Throttling down to 10% of design thrust minimized propellant use while enabling the engine to remain firing continuously.}

Now, Elon Musk has stated that Starship HLS would be able to deliver “potentially up to 200 tons” to the lunar surface. Let’s conservatively assume the initial missions will be targeted for around 100 tons (200,000 lbm) total landing mass on the lunar surface and use the current lowest thrust variant of the Raptor engine. For hovering at the 0.17g gravity near the Moon’s surface, even a single 410,000 lbf Raptor variant would have to be throttled down to 0.17*200,000 lbf = 34,000 lbf to hover that total 100 ton lander mass . . .equivalent to a 34/410 = 0.08% = a 12:1 throttle range.

Even beyond the simple math given above, NASA has apparently forgotten the practical engineering “lessons learned” from its largely-unsuccessful attempts in 2005-2007 to modify the existing pump-fed, cryogenic RL10 engine to become a deep throttling engine.

Bottom line: there are very fundamental technical reasons why a pump-fed, rocket engine using cryogenic propellants cannot be designed as a deep-throttling (defined as >= 5:1 throttle range) engine . . . let alone the simple fact that the SpaceX Raptor is greatly over-sized in thrust for the presently-defined Artemis mission.

It gets worst still.

The Raptor engine is designed to use sub-cooled cryogenic oxygen and sub-cooled cryogenic methane in order to increase the density of the tanked vehicle propellants. Yet any “super insulating” dewar-style tankage to prevent conductive-heat-induced boiloff during the planned initial lunar stay times of seven days—extended up to two months when Base Camp operations begin—is sure to be relatively heavy. Moreover, to restore sub-cooling (temperatures well below boiling) to the Starship HLS prior to rocket-powered liftoff and ascent will involve venting off a considerable amount of propellant as well as active propellant stirring to eliminate propellant stratification that will have occurred over the stay time due to lunar gravity.

As my final parting shot about the joke that the Artemis project has become, I have this sentence from the above-linked Wikipedia reference on Artemis:

“NASA’s stated short-term goal for the program is landing the first woman and first person of color on the Moon.”

Last edited 1 month ago by Gordon A. Dressler
Rocketscientist
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
May 17, 2022 12:49 pm

The Artemis program is why I went to build and test JWST.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Rocketscientist
May 17, 2022 12:55 pm

Wise choice . . . and congratulations and deepest thanks for your contributions to JWST’s amazing success to date and its promise of spectacular advances in deep space astronomy and, overall, for advancing our understanding in cosmology.

Stanb999
May 17, 2022 3:20 am

Hydroponic production is a mature industry. Why would you bother with soil. Nonsense.

OK S.
Reply to  Stanb999
May 17, 2022 11:26 am

“Hydroponic production is a mature industry. Why would you bother with soil. 
Nonsense.”

Pshaw!!

Hydroponic food is awful. And depends on a constant resupply of chemicals and hardware. Musk says he can eventually get delivery down to $100,000 a ton, though, so maybe take-out food could be the plan.

George Ellis
Reply to  OK S.
May 17, 2022 3:35 pm

I disagree. We are loving our salad from our deck. Part of the nutrients will end up from recycled human waste. The compost pile wiill be an interesting experiment though. What they are growing in with the lunar soil is closer to a sterile media anyway. That is like the rockwool or sponges in hydroponics.

Geoff Sherrington
May 17, 2022 3:55 am

Most of the weight of a grown plant is water and organic substances derived from CO2 plus Nitrogen compounds.
There is no CO2 or suitable Nitrogen compounds in the lunar air. Therefore, the weight of food that you can grow depends primarily on the amounts of H2O and CO2 and minor nutrients that you send from Earth to Moon.
The lunar soils mainly provide a structure, something to hide the roots from sunshine while maintaining water. Lunar soil can me replaced by hydroponic solutions and bits of plastic. It is hard to imagine that the Moon can support organisms that convert Nitrogen to ammonia/nitrates etc, because Nitrogen is absent from the Moon’s atmosphere.
………………..

There does not seem to be useful scientific outcome from these experiments. They are more like comic book cartoon material. Here comes Buck Rogers. Geoff S

observa
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
May 17, 2022 6:00 am

There does not seem to be useful scientific outcome from these experiments.

Makes sense
Renewables Look Good on Paper, but Geez They Take up a Lot of Land (gizmodo.com.au)
Where else will they grow enough jarrah wood?
Silicon manufacturer may be forced to import coal as jarrah supply, a key input, dwindles (msn.com)
Our trouble is we can’t see the really big picture like they can 😉

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
May 17, 2022 12:00 pm

“There is no CO2 or suitable Nitrogen compounds in the lunar air.”

Geoff, I have no doubt that you meant to say “lunar soil” instead of “lunar air”.

Peta of Newark
May 17, 2022 4:07 am

So after all of Jim’s fawning and childlike entrancement, what we need to know is:
Did Lisa lay him?

It’d be a shame to think all that effort on his part was wasted – but there again, would you?

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Peta of Newark
May 17, 2022 11:12 am

Yeah, really. Someone tell these two to get a room.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Peta of Newark
May 17, 2022 12:03 pm

From the text of their exchanges, it appears that happened before the interview.

Josh Scandlen
May 17, 2022 5:36 am

Don’t you have to actually be on the moon to actually grow crops there? Weird how we lost the technology to go back… :). Such a scam

fretslider
Reply to  Josh Scandlen
May 17, 2022 5:45 am

Nasa does as the political leader wishes. Obama was fixated on the Earth, Trump had a mind to go back to the moon, and Biden has the same fixation as his former boss.

That’s why SpaceX is way more innovative and exciting.

chris pasqualini
Reply to  Josh Scandlen
May 17, 2022 11:53 am

People and animals do poorly in extended zero/low g environments. How about plants?

Poems of our Climate
Reply to  chris pasqualini
May 18, 2022 8:47 am

Why do we need plants, oxygen?

Ron Long
May 17, 2022 6:04 am

Right. When the MRE’s (Meals Rejected by Ethiopians) run out it will be the sequel: DONNER PARTY2.

jeff corbin
May 17, 2022 6:32 am

Leave the moon alone. We already know how to grow plants.

Joao Martins
May 17, 2022 7:05 am

More science-fiction…

dodgy geezer
May 17, 2022 7:52 am

Plants grow by extracting CO2 from the air. What we need for the Moon are plants which can grow in a vacuum…

TonyG
May 17, 2022 8:12 am

“we’re worried about this regolith, when humans walk around in spacesuits, getting into their lungs.”

What am I missing here? If they’re in spacesuits, how is this stuff getting into their lungs? How is it even getting into their suits?

Steve Taylor
Reply to  TonyG
May 17, 2022 9:12 am

because they take their suits off in their shelters and the dust is bound to the outsides

TonyG
Reply to  Steve Taylor
May 17, 2022 9:36 am

I suppose I can see that. Seems like some sort of cleansing system in the airlocks would be needed, then.

How speculative is this at this point?

George Ellis
Reply to  TonyG
May 17, 2022 3:39 pm

Fine dust will find a way. Then will have all the ambulance chaser ads for mesothelioma from being on the moon

Steve Taylor
Reply to  TonyG
May 17, 2022 5:51 pm

It was an issue reported even by Armstrong and Aldrin how the dust got everywhere. IIRC, they reported it smelled a little like gunpowder

TonyG
Reply to  Steve Taylor
May 18, 2022 6:54 am

I see I didn’t frame that question properly. When I asked “how speculative” I was referring to the idea of creating these stations/settlements, not about the dust. Sorry for the misunderstanding!

observa
Reply to  TonyG
May 17, 2022 9:26 am

Dunno but you’d have to suspect CO2 as the spiky virion culprit that fools the spacesuit into letting the regoliths in. Spacesuits were designed for COvid not the dreaded CO2vid in the regolithic age.

Doonman
May 17, 2022 9:12 am

Anna-Lisa Paul The only way that humans can be explorers is if we take our plants with us.

It sure looks as if we are stuck here drinking Tang then.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Doonman
May 17, 2022 11:09 am

Not only that, but isn’t this a violation of the ‘Prime Directive’? Quick, put me through to Star Fleet command!

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Doonman
May 17, 2022 12:24 pm

“The only way that humans can be explorers is if we take our plants with us.”

Ummmm . . . that would be news to explorers that hike to Mt. Everest, let alone to former astronauts that journeyed to and stayed on the lunar surface for longer than three Earth days, with additional travel time averages of about 3 days to get to the Moon and about 3 days to return from the Moon.

Anna-Lisa Paul, via her above quote, would have you believe there were no human explorers on Apollo missions.

And she is a professor and director at UF? Go figure.

Last edited 1 month ago by Gordon A. Dressler
George Ellis
Reply to  Doonman
May 17, 2022 3:42 pm

You are thinking tactically instead of strategically. You will need the plants to colonize. You usually bring them packaged on road trips to the stars.

Brad-DXT
May 17, 2022 9:57 am

Seems to me that the biggest development for growing crops on the moon would be creating a large sealed habitat that could be pressurized with a suitable atmosphere. Finding a source of water on the moon would be handy too.

Using the regolith for growing crops is irrelevant since future explorers could just use hydroponic methods. It may be determined that using the regolith for soil would be detrimental to future explorers because of the hazard of breathing it in.

This article from NASA is just a puff piece showing off how well the government can waste our tax dollars.

Joe
May 17, 2022 11:13 am

This is deceptive. Using what they describe, you could do the same things with pebbles.

“It took a little bit of nutrients, too… was a little plug of material called rockwool, which is essentially just spun lava rocks, that makes a sponge, and then the regolith goes on top of that little sponge.”

They didn’t actually do what was claimed.

Gordon A. Dressler
May 17, 2022 12:05 pm

Why are we worried about growing plants there, when there’s already all that cheese?

ldd
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
May 17, 2022 6:00 pm

Gord, because they need a little wine to go with all that cheese.
Cheers!

Barry
Reply to  ldd
May 18, 2022 7:47 pm

There will be restaurants on the moon but they won’t have much atmosphere!

oi812
May 17, 2022 12:55 pm

Can humans live for months outside earth’s magnetic sphere? No Mars and limited time on the moon.https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/is-gut-wrenching-space-travel-possible

Poems of our Climate
May 18, 2022 8:43 am

Plants are close to nutritionally useless. Bring masses of pemican and dried meat. In fact, bring fresh meat and store it on the cold side of the moon.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Poems of our Climate
May 19, 2022 10:56 am

Well, then, the plants will be needed after all to feed the cattle-on-the-Moon that, in turn, provide the “fresh meat”.

See how that works?

Mike Maguire
May 18, 2022 9:38 am

Let’s spend millions of dollars to show that the only way to produce a minuscule amount of food on the moon is to spend millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, back on planet earth, dropping seeds into the abundant, natural fertile soils, with the abundant minerals, beneficial CO2, abundant sunshine, abundant H2O and favorable planting, growing and harvesting weather can produce zillions of times more food…….at cost efficient rates.

Trying to grow food on the moon to sustain humans, would be like trying to use the condensation on the inside of car windows for the cities water supply (-:

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