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Growing Plants In Lunar Gravity

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the jolly-green-astronaut dept.

Space 111

smooth wombat writes "If everything goes according to plan, an experiment designed to test whether plants can grow in the limited lunar gravity will hitch a ride with a competitor for the Google Lunar X Prize. 'The current prototype for the greenhouse is a 15-inch-high (37.5-centimeter-high) reinforced glass cylinder that's about 7 inches (18 centimeters) wide on the bottom. Seeds for a rapid-cycle type of Brassica plant — basically, mustard seeds — would be planted in Earth soil within the container.' The press release from Paragon Space Development Corporation outlines its partnership with Odyssey Moon to be the first to grow a plant on another world. In addition to the experiment, Paragon will be helping Odyssey with the thermal control system and lander design. To win the prize, Odyssey must land its craft on the lunar surface by the end of 2014."

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111 comments

My brain must be going stupid (5, Funny)

Swordopolis (1159065) | about 5 years ago | (#27368185)

It took me like three tries before I stopped reading the headline as "Growing Planets in Lunar Gravity"

Re:My brain must be going stupid (1)

Narnie (1349029) | about 5 years ago | (#27368343)

Yeah, I read it like that too. Course I kind of expect Google to sponsor growing a small moon.

Obligatory: "That's no small moon."

Re:My brain must be going stupid (0, Redundant)

Swordopolis (1159065) | about 5 years ago | (#27368375)

I clicked on your post with every intention of immediately posting (almost verbatim) the second line of your post. Very creepy.

Re:My brain must be going stupid (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27368831)

You're both very original. I don't think anyone else would have thought of that.

Re:My brain must be going stupid (4, Funny)

Chlorine Trifluoride (1517149) | about 5 years ago | (#27368727)

Obligatory: "That's no small moon."

"It's a data center."

Re:My brain must be going stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27369391)

"A data center with full asteroid defences.
We value your data more than your life.
- Google"

Not trying to be a dick or anything, but they really do. (note that i love Google)

Aw come on, my captcha was disowned... I'm sorry /. ._.

Re:My brain must be going stupid (3, Funny)

Joebert (946227) | about 5 years ago | (#27368351)

Well if it makes you feel any better, it took me 3 tries to find the difference between yours and the real title.

Re:My brain must be going stupid (1)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | about 5 years ago | (#27368597)

I think it's time we all went too bed, I had to read your post 3 times before I realized what you were talkign about.

Re:My brain must be going stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27368383)

Yeah, you brain is going stupid.

Re:My brain must be going stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27369839)

It's good that we have other organs with a mental capacity

Re:My brain must be going stupid (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 5 years ago | (#27368463)

I read it as "Growing Plants in Lunar Gravy."

Hmmm . . . gravy.

I guess that's what I get for reading Slashdot before breakfast.

"Mom! Can we have plants in lunar gravy for breakfast?"

Re:My brain must be going stupid (2)

Zumbs (1241138) | about 5 years ago | (#27368815)

You are not alone ... it took me a dozen tries to read 'Paragon' and not 'Pentagon'.

Prepare to be disappointed (0, Troll)

Simonetta (207550) | about 5 years ago | (#27370423)

Prepare to be disappointed, all ye lunar colonist fans.

  Your country is bankrupt. Your government is spending multi-TRILLION dollars to bail-out the rich from their stupidity. You have permanent endless expensive wars in distant and inconsequential lands. You depend on indifferent foreign governments to buy your government bonds that finance the huge debt that previous administrations have incurred.

It's not going to far in the future before the world pulls the plug on America.

When that happens the first thing that will be discarded will be the lunar colonization aspect of the space program.

Get used to it. Don't blame me for saying this. Don't mod me to down to -1 for bringing up an inconvenient truth.

Sure, the space program is cool. And important to the humanity's future. And the key to our (us techno-geeks that is) continued prosperity.

And it will happen.

But not in our lifetimes. It will happen two or three hundred years in the future. Not in 2020.

I KNOW a lot of people here are going to be pissed and feeling backstabbed when President Obama cancels the lunar-exploration projects sometime in the next three to five years. But it is an inevitability. So prepare yourself for it.

Thank you,
A realistic and pragmatic person on Earth, home of all life.

Hackers. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27368217)

Was the best movie of all time.

OH MY GOD (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27368237)

THIRD POST?!

Wow (2, Insightful)

Kleen13 (1006327) | about 5 years ago | (#27368287)

What they're doing seems mundane until you think of the scale of things that have to happen right for this experiment to be successful. I'll be watching this....

Plants grow in microgravity. (2, Informative)

ravenshrike (808508) | about 5 years ago | (#27368299)

Thus any differences between earth grav and 1/6 earth grav are likely to be negligible. Dumbest experiment ever.

Re:Plants grow in microgravity. (2, Informative)

megrims (839585) | about 5 years ago | (#27368337)

From TFA:

"Plants have been grown in essentially zero gravity and of course in Earth gravity, but never in fractions of gravity," said Dr. Volker Kern, Paragon's Director of NASA Human Spaceflight Programs who conducted plant growth experiments in space on the US Space Shuttle. "Scientifically it will be very interesting to understand the effects of the Moon and one sixth gravity on plant growth."

I'd be curious to see what kind of different plant structures emerge.

Re:Plants grow in microgravity. (5, Interesting)

Maelwryth (982896) | about 5 years ago | (#27368601)

Yes, that was my thought to. I was thinking more about larger plants though. Would fruit still grow the same shape under lunar gravity? Would you have to ration water to the plants so they don't suck up to much water and collapse? Would they have similar problems with nutrient loss as we do with calcium? Could be a very interesting experiment indeed.

It does appear there have been some preliminary studies done. Including growing Arabidopsis thaliana [wikipedia.org] on the ISS. And rice [nih.gov] on the Space Shuttle STS-95 mission. The abstract does mention some elongation in the coleoptile of the rice. I would imagine the bigger the plant, the bigger the changes that would develop. It is, after all, studying the effect of gravity.

Re:Plants grow in microgravity. (1)

ltjaxz (808975) | about 5 years ago | (#27368765)

So.. a watermelon shaped banana? Would that be so bad?..

Re:Plants grow in microgravity. (1)

Maelwryth (982896) | about 5 years ago | (#27368833)

"So.. a watermelon shaped banana? Would that be so bad?.."
Imagine picking it up when it was rotten.

Re:Plants grow in microgravity. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27369759)

So.. a watermelon shaped banana?

Would that be so bad?..

Ask your wife.

Re:Plants grow in microgravity. (2, Insightful)

AJWM (19027) | about 5 years ago | (#27371053)

The thing is, it wouldn't be hard to do the experiment at almost any gee level they wanted, using a centrifuge on the space station (well, two counter-rotating centrifuges to minimize angular momentum effects on the station). Of course for greater than one gee we can do the same thing on Earth.

Re:Plants grow in microgravity. (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 5 years ago | (#27368359)

Thus any differences between earth grav and 1/6 earth grav are likely to be negligible. Dumbest experiment ever.

Famous last words...

Re:Plants grow in microgravity. (1)

MrCoke (445461) | about 5 years ago | (#27368555)

Prove it.

Re:Plants grow in microgravity. (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 5 years ago | (#27368579)

If you are taking off with a sack of seeds to colonize the moon, and planning to live off the land, like early pioneers, you might want to be certain that your plants will grow there.

The European South African settlers who ventured too far north were screwed when they discovered that their plants would not grow in the tropics.

(I hear the voices of thousands of Slashdotters screaming, "Are you suggesting that the moon has a tropical climate?")

And the choice of mustard seeds is not a bad one, from a survivalist view: I remember many a nights during my cashless college days, when dinner was a "Mustard Sandwich" . . . mustard on bread. As Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Hunger never saw bad bread."

But before I sign up for the Moon Colony Mission, I would like to know the effects of Lunar Gravity on my preferred diet: Philly Cheesesteaks, beer, canned Chilli, chips, Taco Cabana take-out, another cheesesteak, more beer . . .

Re:Plants grow in microgravity. (4, Funny)

UncleTogie (1004853) | about 5 years ago | (#27370105)

But before I sign up for the Moon Colony Mission, I would like to know the effects of Lunar Gravity on my preferred diet: Philly Cheesesteaks, beer, canned Chilli, chips, Taco Cabana take-out, another cheesesteak, more beer . . .

With that diet, I'd be more worried about the effects of methane buildup on the lunar habs..

Re:Plants grow in microgravity. (2, Insightful)

ravenshrike (808508) | about 5 years ago | (#27370667)

I'm pretty certain that lunar soil isn't up to the task of supporting most plant life. Which means you'll have a long wait until someone manages to grow something on an airless satellite. as for a hydroponics farm, we know those work.

Re:Plants grow in microgravity. (2, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about 5 years ago | (#27368963)

I beg to differ [www.jaxa.jp]. Differences do exist, and we have no idea what differences there will be under Moon's gravity. Will it be enough for the plants to recognize the vertical orientation ? Will they grow 6 times higher ? Same height ? Will the stem be thiner ? thicker ?

We can make educated guesses, but we are almost guaranteed to have surprises.

Re:Plants grow in microgravity. (1)

ssintercept (843305) | about 5 years ago | (#27370553)

absolutely!
and until we are out there - all our theories and extrapolations are only "educated guesses" as you said.
who really knows how wrong we could be. that is what really fascinates me.

Paragon Firsts (5, Interesting)

quercus.aeternam (1174283) | about 5 years ago | (#27368313)

I'm somewhat surprised that I hadn't heard of Paragon - they seem to have done some very interesting experiments [paragonsdc.com].

I was interested in seeing if it was like a biosphere, or how much regulation would be required. Unfortunately (according to TFA), they haven't actually designed anything yet.

It will also be interesting to see how the plants handle having a lunar day to complete their life cycle. It would be very cool if the plants were able to perpetuate for a while - even if only for a few days/cycles.

I for one will be quite interested in how this develops...

Re:Paragon Firsts (1)

uofitorn (804157) | about 5 years ago | (#27368511)

I'm interested too corporate spammer. A "TFA" reference makes you legit it does not. My apologizes for the lame Yoda reference.

Yeah.... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27368315)

but how long until we can grow marijuana on these foreign lands? Â Â Â Â Â

What about... (1)

MadUndergrad (950779) | about 5 years ago | (#27368329)

Couldn't this same experiment be done on a centrifuge in Earth's gravity? Centrifuges usually are used to increase apparent gravity, but if it were shaped so that the plant and soil faced outward, at the right speed, wouldn't one be able to mimic that 1/6 g?

Re:What about... (2, Funny)

Joebert (946227) | about 5 years ago | (#27368387)

There's a way you can find out.

Normally if you held your head over a desk and jumped into the air gravity would would make you crack your head on the desk when you came down. Now, if instead of jumping up you just thrust your head straight down to the desk your head would be in zero gravity and gravity wouldn't cause you to crack your head on the desk.

I for one am interested to see how this plays out, be sure to let us know if you try it. :)

Re:What about... (1)

Psychotria (953670) | about 5 years ago | (#27368695)

Normally if you held your head over a desk and jumped into the air gravity would would make you crack your head on the desk when you came down. Now, if instead of jumping up you just thrust your head straight down to the desk your head would be in zero gravity and gravity wouldn't cause you to crack your head on the desk.

I for one am interested to see how this plays out, be sure to let us know if you try it. :)

You owe me a new keyboard. This one is now full of blood. Also, after I visit the emergency department and the dentist (I lost 5 teeth doing your 'experiment') I might send you the bill. Your experiments should come with a safety warning. :/

Re:What about... (1)

Joebert (946227) | about 5 years ago | (#27368721)

Well in that case, keeping with the theme of the experiment, I guess now is a good time to say try this at your own risk.

Re:What about... (4, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 5 years ago | (#27368415)

Couldn't this same experiment be done on a centrifuge in Earth's gravity? Centrifuges usually are used to increase apparent gravity, but if it were shaped so that the plant and soil faced outward, at the right speed, wouldn't one be able to mimic that 1/6 g?

No. A centrifuge can only add to gravity.

Re:What about... (2, Insightful)

paxswill (934322) | about 5 years ago | (#27368491)

I don't thing you understand what he meant. He's suggesting orienting the plant opposite the normal configuration, with the soil and roots system being closer to the central axis, with the leafy portions of the plant growing out, away from the central axis. The problem with this is that you can't really completely eliminate the effects of gravity. If the centrifuge is spinning horizontally, you still have gravity pulling the plants sideways, and if you set it up vertically, you may be able to get and average of 1/6 gravity, but not a constant 1/6g, as you'll actually be increasing the acceleration when the centrifuge is going down.

Re:What about... (1)

G-forze (1169271) | about 5 years ago | (#27369147)

Wouldn't the average still be exactly 1 G? Well, maybe not if one were to spinn the centrifuge at different speeds in different parts of the circulation but it still seems stupid.

Re:What about... (1)

Random Destruction (866027) | about 5 years ago | (#27370359)

No, he understood. You just don't understand physics. A centrifuge can only add to apparent gravity. Turning it upside down doesn't fix anything, you're still increasing the total force vector on the plants. Unless somehow you can spin it so the force vector (Which always points out from the centre of the centrifuge) is always pointing against earths gravity. You'll need a mighty big centrifuge methinks.

Re:What about... (1)

AJWM (19027) | about 5 years ago | (#27371121)

Unless somehow you can spin it so the force vector (Which always points out from the centre of the centrifuge) is always pointing against earths gravity. You'll need a mighty big centrifuge methinks.

Well, you don't have to build the whole centrifuge, just part of it. We call it the International Space Station, whose centrifugal force (I know, I know) balances Earth's gravity perfectly. Ditto for everything else in Earth orbit.

Re:What about... (1)

Maelwryth (982896) | about 5 years ago | (#27368629)

"No. A centrifuge can only add to gravity."
Although commonly measured in g's. You should probably point out that it doesn't increase gravity. Pedantic, I know.

Re:What about... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 5 years ago | (#27373085)

"No. A centrifuge can only add to gravity." Although commonly measured in g's. You should probably point out that it doesn't increase gravity. Pedantic, I know.

Saying add to gravity is not the same as saying add gravity.

Re:What about... (1)

Maelwryth (982896) | about 5 years ago | (#27373447)

"Saying add to gravity is not the same as saying add gravity."
This is true. My apologies. I was going to debunk myself soon after posting but thought I would leave it as is and see if I could get away with it...........bugger.

Re:What about... (4, Interesting)

ortholattice (175065) | about 5 years ago | (#27368689)

With a centrifuge, the experiment could be done on the Space Station, rotating at the right speed to emulate the moon's gravity. Still expensive, but not as much as a lunar surface version.

On the other hand, it might be useful to run a centrifuge on earth and emulate say 1g + n*0.1g for n = 0 to 10. We could look at the resulting curve and extrapolate backwards. That of course assumes the extrapolation is meaningful, but it might give a rough indication of what to expect with very little expenditure.

Re:What about... (3, Informative)

dkf (304284) | about 5 years ago | (#27368883)

That of course assumes the extrapolation is meaningful, but it might give a rough indication of what to expect with very little expenditure.

That's been done I bet, but you still need to run the experiment to check whether that extrapolation really is meaningful. There isn't really any substitute, because the fundamental problem with all models (and theories and extrapolations) is that they leave out details, and if you push the model far out of where it was designed for you can get other effects dominating.

For example, you can extrapolate gravitation down to the nanometer scale, but that doesn't mean that it lets you fully understand the behavior of matter in that domain. Electrostatic effects tend to rule at that level instead, yet they're not part of any (sane) model of gravitation that I've heard of. Overall, this just tells you to beware of taking models too far.

Re:What about... (1)

sketerpot (454020) | about 5 years ago | (#27371117)

The X-Prize people are all trying to make lunar missions a lot cheaper than anything we're doing on the space station. And since they're going to the moon anyway, why not bring a plant along?

Re:What about... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27368427)

You can simulate increased gravity with a centrifuge but you can't make gravity that is already there disappear.

Re:What about... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 5 years ago | (#27368639)

That's a good idea but I think gravity will spoil it with something called an avalanche. I was thinking of a platform going up and down, it would have min g at 1/6 and max g at 11/6, not ideal but would show if variations in gravity had an effect.

Rapid growth (2, Interesting)

Joebert (946227) | about 5 years ago | (#27368345)

Has anyone else ever wondered if it would be possible to grow something almost instantaniously if the conditions were absolutely perfect ?

I would think that plants would grow faster with little to no gravity.

Re:Rapid growth (4, Informative)

Psychotria (953670) | about 5 years ago | (#27368385)

I would think that plants would grow faster with little to no gravity.

Maybe. But the question might be more related to how healthy or productive the plants are. Even on Earth we can accelerate plant growth by (as an example) growing light adapted plants in low-light conditions with ample nutrients, or by introducing growth hormones such as gibberellins or adjusting the photoperiod. Often the plants are not 'healthy' though. Stem elongation, weak cell walls, abnormal tugor, reduced or inhibited fecundity all may exhibit themselves. So, to me, the question isn't whether it's possible (it probably is), but whether or not the result is a healthy plant that is able to reproduce and/or meet some other goal like production yields (in the case of vegetative growth then I guess that could easily be met, in the case of grain [seed] production I think it might be harder...)

Re:Rapid growth (1)

Joebert (946227) | about 5 years ago | (#27368433)

What if we can get rid of leaves and somehow get the roots to product fruit ?
Without the leaves the fruit could be sucked into a vaccuum or sorts because there would be no need for the Co2 for the leaves.

Re:Rapid growth (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27368481)

Potatoes, perhaps?

The leaves are just solar panels, after all.

Re:Rapid growth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27370529)

I for one welcome our cylon-potato overlords.

Re:Rapid growth (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | about 5 years ago | (#27368445)

There is a microscopic plant that given perfect possible conditions could go from 1plant to something the volume of the planet earth in half a year. Bet we could grow bacteria even faster. I swear some cultures in bio were just moving not growing...

Why? (3, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about 5 years ago | (#27368475)

The splitting of the cells, the growing of said cells, keeping the cells supplied with nutrients, that is what limits the growth of a plant. Not silly gravity. Gravity has an effect (perhaps) on the shape of the plant. I could imagine that with less gravity a tree would be more upright, its branches not bending down by their own weight. There might be a reduction in the cost to pump the sap around although you got to wonder if gravity is not actually used in this process.

But hey, smarter people then me and you have tried thinking about this, didn't come up with a clear answer so they decided to do an experiment. Soon we will know or have another hole in the moon.

Re:Why? (4, Funny)

Joebert (946227) | about 5 years ago | (#27368515)

But hey, smarter people then me

Speak for yourself, I just don't have access to a lab and all of those cool gadgets. :)

Re:Why? (2, Interesting)

Takichi (1053302) | about 5 years ago | (#27369009)

The direction of gravity and the direction of light both have an effect on plants ability to grow "up". They're labelled gravitropism and phototropism respectively. With gravity, they believe that starchy balls sink with gravity, put pressure on the cell membrane, and start a chemical chain of messages. So gravity does have an effect on the direction of growth, although it might not be as noticeable if there is a strong phototropic effect. As for cell growth, I'm not sure about the effects. At least, that's what I can remember from my plant physiology course.

Re:Why? (3, Interesting)

Takichi (1053302) | about 5 years ago | (#27369051)

Actually, I should add that the gravitropic effect is relevant to the root system of the plant. It helps the plant push down into soil, finding more nutrients, so low gravity definitely could affect plant growth if it is has a poorer ability to find and absorb resources.

Re:Why? (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | about 5 years ago | (#27372785)

How are you certain of that? Some plants grow upside down just fine, while others fail. More likely than not, when this was first tried, I would bet that most ppl thought that ALL plants would fail, or succeed, not just some of them. Simply put, we do not know UNTIL it is tried. I am guessing that some plants will do just fine, and others will fail miserably.

Growing is easy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27368425)

The hard part is keeping them from frying in direct sunlight.

Re:Growing is easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27368487)

Mmm ... fried mustard seeds.

Lunar sunshine and lunar soil (3, Interesting)

DeltaQH (717204) | about 5 years ago | (#27368543)

Rather than answering the question about if a plant can grow in lunar gravity, I think it would be far more interesting to know if a plant can grow on lunar soil and with lunar sunshine.

Not directly of course! But what kind of soil treatment, additives and sunshine/radiation filtering would have to be done to be able to grow plants on a moon based greenhouse.

The question is. How much of what the moon offers can we use to grow plants there, and what adaptations must be done both to lunar based greenhouse and plants to use as much of moon resources as possible?

Sunshine during the day doesnt seem to be a problem in the moon ;-)

But those cold long nights :-(

What about a near polar location with eternal sunlight? For example along the rim of the crater Peary

Re:Lunar sunshine and lunar soil (2, Informative)

Ernesto Alvarez (750678) | about 5 years ago | (#27369387)

That filter already exists. Solar cells work fine on the moon. That means you can use it to recharge batteries, and use those batteries to power lamps suitable for growing plants. It's a clumsy way, but doable.

Re:Lunar sunshine and lunar soil (1)

DeltaQH (717204) | about 5 years ago | (#27370633)

Not bad solution, bat I would prefer a more directly use of the sunshine on the moon... with appropriate filtration.

Maybe instead of using solar cells to power a lightning system a better idea would be to use light collectors and then conduct the light through optical fibers to the greenhouse where plants grow.

Re:Lunar sunshine and lunar soil (5, Informative)

spaceman375 (780812) | about 5 years ago | (#27370617)

The biggest problem with the soil is that it's sharp. There's no weathering on the moon; the "soil" is dust and grit with very sharp points and edges. The plants would be enduring constant irritation and injury.

Of course, you could sift the dust through a concentrated beam of sunlight and melt it into little spheroids. That would still be cheaper than grinding or importing something softer. The point is, you'd have to process your lunar resource of choice somehow; you can't use it "straight up."

Re:Lunar sunshine and lunar soil (3, Interesting)

rts008 (812749) | about 5 years ago | (#27372611)

There's no weathering on the moon; the "soil" is dust and grit with very sharp points and edges.[...]
The point is, you'd have to process your lunar resource of choice somehow; you can't use it "straight up."

I was wondering about that myself.
I also would think the fine dust that is present in large amounts would cause something similar to 'root rot' due to lack of air space between the soil granules/particles.
Once that fine dust becomes wet, it will pack tightly. I think this could pose a significant problem under low gravity conditions.

We may have to also rethink some of our 'dirt working' techniques. Most of our soil processing and our 'earth-moving' equipment/machinery utilizes both gravity and kinetic effects. Low gravity will have an effect here.
Having lived on a farm, and operated front-end loaders and dozers, I do have a little practical experience with both growing plants and 'dirt work'.

But, botany and geology are not my fields, so I may be just chasing my tail here.

Arabidopsis (1)

Viridae (1472035) | about 5 years ago | (#27368559)

Can we not dumb it down too much please - the plant being grown is clearly Arabidopsis thaliana - it is the single most studied species of plant, being that it is used as a model for all plants - like Drosophila (fruit fly) and mice.

Re:Arabidopsis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27369029)

Arabidopsis thaliana - it is the single most studied species of plant, being that it is used as a model for all plants - like Drosophila (fruit fly) and mice .

Can we not dumb it down too much please?

Re:Arabidopsis (1)

Viridae (1472035) | about 5 years ago | (#27369081)

Fine: Mus musculus, but I didn't think that genus/species name would be as recognisable as the others.

High Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27368605)

I bet it isn't illegal to grow weed on the moon... or to get high in space...

60 Million years later (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27368947)

'I for one welcome our new cress-based lunar overlords'

Of course they can! (1)

glwtta (532858) | about 5 years ago | (#27368983)

Plants grow very well in the Moon, just gotta have your whole Line Family pitch in with drilling the planting corridors and whatnot. Oh, and bartering for ice can be pretty difficult.

Sealed fate in a carboy (4, Interesting)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | about 5 years ago | (#27369615)

In August 1997, I sealed a 20L glass carboy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carboy) with desinfected soil and watertrumpet plants (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptocoryne). The water is only 40 mm deep just covering to root system. It just thrives!

There are seasonal deaths of individual leaves and various succesions of fungus growths, in white, yellow and brown. The "ecosystem" has not crashed yet on me.

However, I have not yet tested low gravity. That would be an effort beyond my budget...

.

the most bothersome part of this is the ISS (2, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | about 5 years ago | (#27369763)

It was suppose to have a centrifuge module added (CAM). It was designed SPECIFICALLY for growing life in varying Gs. From that we would know exactly how certain life will respond to the moon, mars, or even something in between so that we can design a ship for long term travel. It appears that NASA may have the shuttle thrust upon them for another year or two. If so, I would like to see us restore the CAM and put it up there. While the original module will not work (been exposed to the elements in japan), we have multiple modules that would work. Heck, we could put up a Sundancer or a BA-330 along with the centrifuge. Then move a number of the units from Columbus to the Bigelow and then put the centrifuge in Columbus. This is probably one of the single largest reasons to have the ISS. This kind of work can not be done on the moon. Of course, I would suspect power would be a problem. Russia no longer has their solar cells, and we are adding more power hogs with out increasing the cells.

Plants need gravity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27369949)

One important role gravity plays is in determining which way the roots grow and which way the stem grows. Imagine you're a seed, buried in the ground. How do you know which way is up? In which direction should you start growing? I suspect if you planted seeds in zero gravity, they would grow at very weird angles indeed, and would not be able to pierce the surface of the soil most of the time

Moon Dirt (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 5 years ago | (#27369955)

I'd like to see a variation on this experiment that doesn't plant in Earth dirt shipped to the Moon, but rather plants in Moon dust taken from the Moon, and compares to that grown in Earth dirt there. Further research might show that mulching with Moon dust could multiple the dirt stocks without shipping so much between gravity wells. If we could ship just seeds (and probably some water), Moon farming could be a lot more cost effective.

Re:Moon Dirt (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | about 5 years ago | (#27370351)

I was just about to post this. I agree that we should be testing whether plants will grow in moon dirt.

I think though the lack of organics in moon dirt will ultimately be the fail.

Re:Moon Dirt (1)

sketerpot (454020) | about 5 years ago | (#27371175)

The longer-term goal of many (most?) Lunar X-Prize teams is to make money by selling cheap moon missions. What you want may happen in a few years, but they're looking for something simpler on the first mission. Plus, this establishes a baseline for later experiments.

Re:Moon Dirt (2, Informative)

AJWM (19027) | about 5 years ago | (#27371419)

Back in Apollo days they did this. Actually as I recall they didn't try growing them in pure Lunar soil (that would require too much of a scarce commodity) but in a mix of Lunar soil and sterile Earth soil. The initial objective was to make sure that Lunar soil (and any possible unknown organisms in it) wouldn't have any adverse effect on Earth plants -- but they discovered that the plants actually grew better. Turns out Lunar soil is rich in (inorganic) nutrients just as volcanic soils are.

The Moon is low in nitrogen and carbon, so those would have to be added to Lunar soil for good growth.

I study ecology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27370165)

And plan to be one of 'em scientists who actually designs the first life supporting ecosystems to ze moon base. I didn't read the article (when in Rome..) but I wonder if they thought about nutrient recycling. Like how are the microbes and microarthropods and such going to function in soil under microgravity? For examples amoebas that live in soil are infact aquatic species.

Bioserve, PGBA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27370683)

This is nothing new. NASA has been growing plants in microgravity for years.

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/science/experiments/PGBA.html

Search for BioServe PGBA on google . . .

Upside down? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 5 years ago | (#27370717)

Semi-relatedly, since they tried 1 G, 0 G and now they want to try 1/6 G, has anyone ever tried -1 G? i.e. grow plants upside down? I for one would love to see a huge structure meant to hold thousands of cubic meters of soil 100 feet from the ground and let a tree grow downwards. Who knows, maybe you'd get trees of epic dimensions?

Re:Upside down? (1)

sketerpot (454020) | about 5 years ago | (#27371201)

Upside-down tomato growing is common, and it works for a variety of other plants as well. Link. [gardeningknowhow.com]

Re:Upside down? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 5 years ago | (#27371685)

Yeah, I found this after a bit of googling, looks like it's the only way it's done. Too bad, imagine a sky scraper with in its center a sequoia tree hanging upside down...

YES! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27372715)

MOON WEED! - Imagine the size of the bud's you'll be able to grow in lunar gravity? :D

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