One of the biggest challenges we face when it comes to exploring our solar system and spending time away from Earth is food and water. A spacecraft taking humans to explore the moon and beyond has to be able to carry the crew, air, fuel, water, and food to serve the entire mission. Finding ways to reduce the amount of one of those items that has to be packed in the ship leaves more space for others.
NASA has announced plans to test how food and other plants will grow on the surface of the moon. NASA is offering up a few details about its Lunar Plant Growth Habitat project. NASA hopes to plant basil, flowers, and turnips on the moon by late 2015.
"We are constructing a small technology demonstration unit to study germination of plants in lunar gravity and radiation on the moon," said NASA. "This will be the first life-sciences experiment on another world."
NASA wants to send seedlings up to the moon to see if the plants can grow there. NASA wants to place a sealed chamber designed to support germination over a 5-10 day period in a spacecraft going to the moon. The chamber will hitch a ride with a company participating in the Google Lunar X-Prize, possibly Moon Express.
After the spacecraft lands on the moon in 2015 scientists will be able to observe the germination process via streaming video and compare it to how the same plants germinate on earth. If the plants are successful in germinating, the technology will be advanced and the project repeated with other plant seeds.