If astronauts have any plans of staying on the moon for extended periods of time, they will have to be self-sustaining. One of the most important steps toward achieving that will be growing their own food. That is the reason NASA scientists recently announced plans to test, growing a vegetable garden on the lunar surface.
This of course will not be a conventional garden with astronauts physically planting seeds on the rocky surface and hoping for the best. Instead, the scientists will place the seeds on a nutrient-infused filter and encase them inside a Lunar Plant Growth Chamber that will shield them against solar radiation. Once the garden lands on the moon, sufficient water will be added to ensure the seeds can thrive. There will also be enough air trapped in to allow for 5-10 days of growth. This will give scientists sufficient time to observe germination, which is the main focus of this inaugural live sciences experiment being conducted in another world.
So what treats are in store for the astronauts if the experiment works? Turnips, basil and Arabidopsis, a little white flowering plant that is similar to cress! Robert Bowman, a senior scientist with Lockheed Martin who is working with the NASA Ames Research Center on this project, says these were selected because they are important crop plants. Additionally, basil has been grown successfully many times on the International Space Station. This gives researchers hope that it might thrive on the moon as well.
NASA hopes to send the secured 1kg (2.2lbs) habitat to the moon in 2015 aboard the 'Moon Express', one of the entrants of the Google Lunar Lander XCHALLENGE. Announced in 2007, the competition that has challenged private companies to develop and land a robotic spacecraft safely on the moon prior to December 31st, 2015, comes with a promise of $30 million USD - The largest incentive based prize ever!
Resources: Nasa.gov, Wired.com