It Should be Possible to Farm on the Moon

An astronaut’s gotta eat, right? Especially if they are on a long-duration mission to places like the Moon. Scientists have been looking into how the lunar regolith could possibly support growing food for humans, as growing plants for food and oxygen will be critical for future long-term lunar missions.

One company has been diligently researching this concept and they say there’s good news.

By analyzing lunar samples returned by the Apollo astronauts and China’s Chang’e 5 mission, scientists at Solsys Mining in Norway says that many valuable plant nutrients already exist in the lunar regolith. The company says they are now developing systems for extracting these nutrients for use in hydroponic agriculture.

Their concept is to use those in-situ nutrients to create fertilizer for aquacultural farming. Solsys has also developed 3d-printed hydroponic growth systems.

“This work is essential for future long-term lunar exploration,” said ESA materials and processes engineer Malgorzata Holynska, who has been working with various industries on promising new ideas in space research. “Achieving a sustainable presence on the Moon will involve using local resources and gaining access to nutrients present in lunar regolith with the potential to help cultivate plants. The current study represents a proof of principle using available lunar regolith simulants, opening the way to more detailed research in future.”

The dusty, sandy pebbly soil is known as the lunar regolith. That’s Neil Armstrong’s boot on the Moon. Credit: NASA

Hydroponics appears to be the best and maybe only option for growing food on the Moon. Solsys says their research has revealed that lunar soil compacts in the presence of water, which creates problems for plant germination and root growth.

Hydroponics, the technique of growing plants using a water-based nutrient solution rather than soil, therefore offers a practical alternative for lunar farming. Extracting nutrients from the regolith allows for in-situ resource utilization, meaning that fertilizer wouldn’t have to be hauled to the Moon, which would be expensive.

In their research, the Solsys Mining team having already cultivated beans by extracting nutrients from a simulated lunar highland regolith.

“We are developing systems for beneficiation of raw materials to enable agriculture, construction and production in space,” says the company on their website. “Systems in space need to be gravity independent, dry, highly energy efficient, compact, and use little to no water.”

Artist concept of a future farm on the Moon. Credit: Solsys Mining.

Their concept for the whole system, shown in this artist rendition, includes a mechanical sorting area for the regolith, on the left, which would then pass through to the central module for more advanced processing, such as chemical leaching. Finally extracted nutrients would be dissolved in water to be pumped to the hydroponic garden, shown on the right.

While the hydroponic bays have been developed, the company is working on the technologies needed for screening, sorting and extracting the nutrients. Solsys Mining’s founders have experience from both the terrestrial mining sector and the space industry.

All of these systems would need to be able to operate in the Moon’s challenging environment, which includes reduced gravity, no atmosphere, and extremes in radiation and temperatures. Working with the lunar regolith itself poses challenges as it is very abrasive and can cause a range of problems for both astronauts and equipment. Since its abrasive nature can damage machines, mechanical durability would need to be built into the system.

This concept has received support from ESA’s Open Space Innovation Platform, which looks for promising new ideas for space research.

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004, and has published over 6,000 articles on space exploration, astronomy, science and technology. She is the author of two books: "Eight Years to the Moon: the History of the Apollo Missions," (2019) which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible; and "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" (2016) tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond. Follow Nancy on Twitter at and and Instagram at and

Recent Posts

In 1872, a Solar Storm Hit the Earth Generating Auroras from the Tropics to the Poles

Imagine a solar storm generating auroral displays across the entire sky. No, we haven't quite…

13 hours ago

For its Final Trick, Chandrayaan-3 Brings its Propulsion Module to Earth Orbit

On August 23, ISRO's Vikram lander detached from its propulsion module and made a soft…

16 hours ago

ESA’s Ariel Mission is Approved to Begin Construction

We're about to learn a lot more about exoplanets. The ESA has just approved the…

18 hours ago

Communicating With a Relativistic Spacecraft Gets Pretty Weird

Someday, in the not-too-distant future, humans may send robotic probes to explore nearby star systems.…

20 hours ago

99% of Space Junk is Undetectable. That Could Change Soon

Private and military organizations are tracking some of the 170 million pieces of space junk…

21 hours ago

Astronomers Calculate Which Exoplanets Are Most Likely to Have Water

Astronomers know of about 60 rocky exoplanets orbiting in the habitable zones of their stars.…

22 hours ago