The first Moon flower will become a reality when private lunar expedition partners Odyssey Moon and Paragon Space Development Corporation deliver a biological greenhouse to the lunar surface.
Google Lunar X PRIZE contender Odyssey Moon Ltd. will announce its partnership with Paragon at a media conference held on March 27, 2009 at the Tucson-based firm, a manufacturer of key components for NASAâ€™s Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle that will replace the Space Shuttle and take Astronauts to the Moon and eventually Mars. The lunar plant will be another space biology first for Paragon, having bred the first animals through complete life cycles in space, and grown the first aquatic plant in space.
â€œPeople of all ages will get excited about the idea of growing a plant on the Moon,â€ said Jane Poynter, President and founder of Paragon and an expert on environmental sustainability. â€œImagine a bright flower on a plant in a crystal clear growth chamber on the surface of the Moon, with the full Earth rising above the Moonscape behind it; these are the ideas that got me interested in space.â€
Jane Poynter and husband Taber MacCallum, Paragon CEO, are well known experts in the closed biological systems communities, and were themselves experimental subjects within a sealed ecosystem as resident scientists in the famous Biosphere 2 project of the early 90â€™s. Spending two years living with six others in a 3.2 acre greenhouse type structure in Oracle, Arizona, the largest closed system ever built, they emerged as a couple with a newly created company.
Growing the first plant on another world has enormous symbolic importance as well as important scientific research value for creating self contained lunar outposts and eventual settlements. â€œPlants have been grown in essentially zero gravity and of course in Earth gravity, but never in fractions of gravity,â€ said Dr. Volker Kern, Paragonâ€™s Director of NASA Human Spaceflight Programs who conducted plant growth experiments in space on the US Space Shuttle. â€œScientifically it will be very interesting to understand the effects of the Moon and one sixth gravity on plant growth.â€
NASA Ames planetary scientist Dr. Chris McKay will also be supporting the Lunar Oasis science team. “The first plant to grow from seed and complete its life cycle on another world will be a significant step in the expansion of life beyond the Earth. The sooner we do it the better,” he said.
In addition to leading the design of biological payloads, Paragonâ€™s responsibilities on the Odyssey Moon team include robotic lunar lander design support and the landerâ€™s thermal control system. Paragon CEO Taber MacCallum will also be joining the Odyssey Moon Board of Advisors.
â€œWe are thrilled to have Paragon join the team with their expertise in thermal and biological systems,â€ said Odyssey Moon founder and CEO Dr. Robert (Bob) Richards. â€œI am incredibly inspired by our hope to grow the first plant on another world.â€
U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Chairwoman of the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, will participate in the press event and tour Paragonâ€™s Orion and research facilities.