Where better to grow plants that on the Moon? Well, lots of places, to be honest, including almost everywhere on planet Earth. But that’s not going to stop people from trying to do so – especially as plants grown in space are going to be critical to any long-term space exploration program, and the Moon seems as good a place as any to do that. So the idea of a team of scientists from Australia, Israel, South Africa, and the US to grow some plants on the Moon by 2025 might not be as far-fetched as it seems.
The project, known as the Australian Lunar Experiment Promoting Horticulture (ALEPH), is sponsored by Lunaria One, an Australian start-up that plans to grow plants continually on the Moon. As with any significant undertaking, it must begin with a single step, and ALEPH is that first step.
That first step will require a launch to the Moon, though, and Lunaria One plans to hitch a ride aboard the Beresheet 2 lunar lander, a private mission to the Moon run by Israeli company SpaceIL. Planned for a 2024 launch, the landers would most likely use a SpaceX rocket in order to make their way to the lunar surface.
Once there, the plan is to monitor a set of specially designed, hermetically sealed pods that will contain the plants. Most likely, these observations will happen for about three days, and the real crux of the mission is to get people interested in watching its progress. Lunaria One states that engaging interested parties, especially school children, in watching the mission’s progress is one of its primary goals.
What they’ll be watching is, hopefully, life flourishing in harsh conditions. The plants selected for this mission are known for their hearty reputation. One, known as Triogon loliiformis, is famous for its ability to survive with little to no water. It enters a dormant state, which will be useful when being shipped to the Moon, but upon the reintroduction of water, it quickly reverts to its usual self.
That resilience, or “resurrection,” in the words of the biologists working on the project, is an excellent trait for plants in space. Whether or not it will be enough for them to thrive there remains to be seen. But we won’t have to wait too long – the mission is currently planned to set down on the Moon in 2025.
ANU – ANU to support Aussie start-up in growing plants on the moon
Lunaria One – ALEPH
UT – Plants can grow in lunar regolith, but they’re not happy about it
UT – Gardening for the Moon
Apollo 11 image of Crater 308 on the moon.
Credit – NASA