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NASA's mission will try to decipher whether it is possible to grow crops on the moon

NASA's mission will try to decipher whether it is possible to grow crops on the moon

Artemis 3 will mark the return of astronauts to the moon after more than 50 years (illustration)

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)a pot) is preparing to attempt to achieve a historic achievement in space exploration with its mission Artemis III. Not only will astronauts return to the moon after more than 50 years, but it will also conduct pioneering experiments. One of them is the growth of plants on the moon.

This ambitious project seeks not only to set foot on Earth's satellite again, but also to lay the foundations for future long-duration missions. And ultimately, a sustainable human existence outside our planet. The name of the selected astronauts is not yet known, but the agency confirmed that they will travel on board the spacecraft called Orion And they will explore Lunar South Pole.

Among the experiments selected by NASA, three scientific instruments stand out that seek to answer key questions about the possibility of human life continuing on the moon. The Lunar Environment Monitoring Station (LEMS) is a high-resolution seismometer to uncover the secrets of the lunar interior by studying lunar earthquakes. For its part, the Lunar Effects on Agricultural Plants (LEAF) organization will experiment with growing plants in extreme conditions. Finally, the Lunar Dielectric Analyzer (LDA) will detect the presence of water ice using electrical currents. Noah Pietro“We want Artemis to be sustainable,” the Artemis 3 project scientist said.

The choice of these tools highlights the complexity and level of detail of the task. LEMS will allow a deeper understanding of lunar geology, which is essential for building future bases. The LDA targets the potential generation of rocket fuel and water-assisted LEAF. LEAF, which resembles an advanced space terrarium that mimics lunar conditions, will be tasked with growing three types of plants: Wolfia (duckweed), Brassica rapa (turnip) and Arabidopsis thaliana plant (Arugula). This experience is essential for developing life support methods in space.

This is what Arabidopsis thaliana, one of the plants LEAF will own, looks like

“This will be the first experiment to monitor photosynthesis, growth, and systemic stress responses of plants in space radiation and partial gravity,” the LEAF space agency said in a statement.

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Anna Lisa Paul, a horticulturist at the University of Florida in the United States, grew it in lunar soil obtained by the Apollo missions. But the watercress that Paul planted hated the soil. They did not develop at the usual times and suffered from stress. But the horticulture department recognizes that LEAF will still be important. “Based on what has been discovered, the next step may be to help plants that are experiencing certain difficulties,” he said. “Design it to allow them to adapt physiologically or select crop varieties that are naturally better suited to deal with that response.” Special for stress.

The instruments still face development challenges to ensure their operation in the demanding lunar atmosphere. Its success could mark a milestone in space exploration and lay the foundation for long-term human habitation on the Moon. The Artemis 3 mission will explore the Moon's south pole, a region of interest because of its potential water deposits and its near-permanent access to solar energy. Pietro said:We will set a precedent that other missions must achieve“.

“We will set a precedent that other missions must follow,” said Noah Petrou, Artemis 3 scientist. Photo/NASA.

Arabidopsis, a fern-like plant, was the first species to flower outside Earth's atmosphere. Specifically on the Soviet ship Salyut 7 In 1982. Since then, progress has been significant. the International Space Station She developed a small garden in 2014 where vegetables such as lettuce, mustard, seaweed and cabbage have been grown ever since.

Years later, China was also able to grow cotton seeds on the moon. It was through investigation Changhe 4 In 2019, which witnessed the first growth of this kind on a natural satellite. Despite this background, the difference with LEAF is this Refers to the processes that plants undergo During its development on the surface of the moon.

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