Those plants, which will be grown in a small habitat and fed water, will include basil, turnips and a white flower called Arabidopsis. NASA will use natural sunlight on the moon and provide air in sealed containers which will allow more the seeds to germinate for more than five days.
The idea is that if plants can thrive on the moon, then humans may be able to as well.
Here’s how NASA will attempt to grow the moon plants. From the press release:
[We will] develop a very simple sealed growth chamber that can support germination over a 5-10 day period in a spacecraft on the Moon. Filter paper with dissolved nutrients inside the container can support ~100 seeds of Arabidopsis and 10 seeds each of basil and turnips. Upon landing on the Moon a trigger would release a small reservoir of water wetting the filter paper and initiating germination of the seeds. The air in the sealed container would be adequate to for more than 5 days of growth. No additional air supply or air processing would be necessary. The seedlings would be photographed at intervals with sufficient resolution to compare with growth in Earth controls. We would use the natural sunlight on the moon as the source of illumination for plant germination as a first ISRU (in situ resource utilization) demonstration.
Here’s what the Lunar Plants Mission Lander, the plants’ moon habitat, looks like. Here are some of the seedlings NASA will attempt to grow on the moon.
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