NASA is to try growing vegetables and herbs on the moon to see if humans could one day live there.
The US space agency plans to send seeds to the moon in 2015 in sealed canisters containing everything that is needed for the seedlings to thrive.
As well as ten seeds each of basil and turnips, there will also be around 100 seeds of Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard.
On landing, a trigger will release a small reservoir of water inside the canister and a team on Earth will monitor how the seeds germinate when exposed to lunar gravity and radiation.
A group of scientists, students and volunteers – known as the Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team – are behind the project which will see the seedlings photographed at intervals to compare with those planted on earth.
The air in the sealed containers should be adequate for more than 5 days of growth.
Thriving plants need the same ingredients for life as humans – food, water and air – and also provide psychological comfort for people, demonstrated by the popular greenhouses in Antarctica and the International Space Station.
NASA plans on sending the seedlings to the moon by hitching a lift on a commercial spacecraft called the Moon Express lander, which is competing to win Google’s Lunar X-Prize in 2015.
Scientists are currently constructing a unit to study the germination of the plants, which will have a mass of just one kilogram and will be deposited on the moon.
Water will be added to the seeds in the module after landing and their growth will be monitored for five to 10 days and compared to Earth-based control seedlings.
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