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.
Imagine looking out your airplane window (or alien spacecraft portal) and seeing a giant Mars Exploration Rover or an astronaut a half-kilometer long etched in …. a corn field? That’s exactly what is happening this fall, as seven farms across the US are participating in a special collaboration with NASA called Space Farm 7 to celebrate the space agency’s achievements and progress in space, as well as providing education and activities about agriculture. The farmers have created some absolutely amazing and intricate crop-circle-like formations that double as corn mazes, giving kids and families the chance to get lost — if you will — in space.
“You don’t always see an astronaut in a corn field,” said Adam Pugh from The Rock Ranch in Georgia, who approached NASA last year with the idea, “and there’s not an obvious connection between corn and NASA. But I thought it would be cool if we could work with NASA and highlight some of the NASA anniversaries going on and use our cornfield as an outdoor classroom to re-enthuse the new generation of youth about space exploration and get them fired up about looking towards the stars.”
Take a look at these awesome corn mazes, all unique and with a special NASA theme.
“I’ve got kids that are nine-, four- and two- years old,” said Pugh, talking with Universe Today from the agri-tourism farm he operates, “and the only thing they know about astronauts is Buzz Lightyear. I felt it would be great if we could teach kids about the real astronauts and the real heroes that have done so much through space exploration to give us things we enjoy today like cell phones, solar panels and all the great things that space exploration has given to us.”
The farms that are part of Space Farm 7 create corn mazes every year, as part of their harvest-time autumn festivities, Pugh said, and this year seven farms have a space-themed maze. “Most of the places started as pumpkin patches or small farms and have all gotten into agri-tourism, an increasingly popular idea which uses an agricultural setting as a place for education or tourism. It’s all part of a growing trend of people buying local for their produce, meats and dairy products.”
Pugh said farmers have noticed a disconnect between today’s youth and agriculture. “We have kids coming on our field trips who have no idea where milk or eggs come from – they just think they come from the store,” he said. “But real effort and skill goes into creating the food that we all enjoy. Our purpose is to not only entertain these folks and get them to spend quality time together and exercise but also educate them and help them realize where their food comes from.”
The SpaceFarm 7 celebration is very timely as this year NASA celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first American in space, the 30th anniversary of the first Space Shuttle mission and the 20th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope’s deployment in space.
NASA has ten regional research centers located in the United States, and the individual Space Farms have each been paired up with their nearest space center in order to highlight that region’s contribution to NASA.
Layla Dowdy from NASA’s Public Affairs Office said NASA is supporting this awesome outreach project with exhibits, and speakers, as well as an online national contest where winners earn a visit to Kennedy Space Center and the chance to dine with an astronaut. To enter, visit www.spacefarm7.com and vote on your favorite of the seven maze designs. A winner will be randomly selected at the end of October.
The celebrations at each of the farms will include a visiting astronaut or other NASA officials, as well as activities such as hobby-rocket launches, hands-on space education activities, and demonstrations from local astronomy clubs, in addition to the regular activities the agri-tourism farms have.
“We’re providing all sorts of neat opportunities for families to experience space exploration, in ways which are normally not accessible unless you travel to Houston or Kennedy Space Center,” Pugh said. “We’re bringing the education materials to people all over the US, and our shared objective with NASA is to reach 1 million kids.”
“We just want to encourage families to get outdoors and enjoy quality time together,” Pugh added. “Our whole purpose is to be good stewards of the land and share that with folks.”
Activities at The Rock Ranch include zip lines, paddle boats, pony rides and other fun outdoor activities where people can “enjoy nature and farmland,” Pugh said.
The mazes typically average 8 acres in size, said Kamille Combs from The MAiZE Inc, a company that helps farmers design and create their corn mazes.
Combs provided the opening dates for the 7 mazes across the US: