NASA Ames Works on Growing Plants on the Moon

NASA Ames’s Lunar Plant Habitat promises to be the first method of growing plants on the moon. (Credit: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center have developed a process for growing plants on the moon (T0140)–a method tested successfully in the lab and matured, in part, through the Flight Opportunities program.

Prior to flight tests of Ames’s Lunar Plant Habitat, no plant-based biological spaceflight experiment had ever hydrated seeds in lunar gravity. Scientists had only performed hydration of seeds at 1 g because they anticipated that the presence of bubbles or of uneven dispersion would result in inferior water distribution in lunar gravity.

Ames’s Lunar Plant Habitat addresses this challenge using a direct pressure pump that works even with air bubbles present, passing water to osmosis paper to distribute it evenly to plant seeds. The technology promises to be the first method of growing plants on the moon and is a direct response to the Decadal Survey calling for investigations into the role of plants in long-term lunar life support.

With the Lunar Plant Habitat tested successfully in ground-based experiments, Ames researchers turned to Flight Opportunities for flight tests to see if the technology would indeed work as anticipated in lunar gravity–and if not, to determine if the system’s sensors would detect the failure.

The payload first underwent parabolic flight testing in 2014. In November 2015 another round of parabolic flight tests was performed to evaluate the flight performance of its microfluidics systems under lunar gravity as well as a camera image capture and system performance evaluation.

The test flights increased the habitat’s technology readiness level (TRL) to 6, and it is now flight qualified for microgravity, low gravity, and 1 g ground and spaceflight applications.

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  • This is totally NASA JPL overkill. You either grow plants, or you die.

    These people have obviously never done anything like this before.

  • Vladislaw

    In the movie the Martian I was always curious why the botonist didn’t bring along one single seed to the mars surface. Even in the space ship there was not a single green leaf anywhere. Why a botonist and not a single plant anywhere to be seen,

  • Paul_Scutts

    Vladislaw, IMO, the book is so much better than the movie, Hollywood “dumbed down” a lot of things and really compromised the characters and story line considerably. Regards, Paul.

  • redneck

    You wonder sometimes if they should talk to, or possibly turn projects like this over to professionals that do things like this for a living, I think they are called farmers.

    Isn’t this something that could have been done earlier, like in Skylab earlier?

  • Luis

    Always happens in the movie version. Of course you would probably have ended with a 4 hour movie, specially in the trip to the MAV.