NASA Is Sending Basil to the Moon

Humans need plant life to survive, so the space agency is sending a few seedlings to live and prosper on the moon before we can.

One small sprout for basil, one giant leap for mankind.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Marina Koren
Dec. 4, 2013, 10:33 a.m.

Be­fore Amer­ic­ans can real­ize Newt Gin­grich’s dream of build­ing a moon colony, they must first send oth­er liv­ing be­ings to the rocky ce­les­ti­al body to test wheth­er long-term sur­viv­al is pos­sible.

To de­term­ine if sus­tained hu­man life there is pos­sible, NASA plans to start garden­ing on the moon. Study­ing plant growth, known as ger­min­a­tion, in the lun­ar en­vir­on­ment can help us pre­dict how hu­mans may grow too, said the space agency in a re­cent an­nounce­ment of the ex­per­i­ment. NASA hopes to coax basil, turnips, and Ar­a­bidop­sis, a small flower­ing plant, from tiny seed­lings to hearty greens in one-sixth of the grav­ity they’re used to here on Earth.

Plants, like hu­mans, are sens­it­ive to en­vir­on­ment­al con­di­tions when they are seed­lings. Their ge­net­ic ma­ter­i­al can be dam­aged by ra­di­ation in out­er space, as well as by a grav­it­a­tion­al pull un­like that of Earth. “If we send plants and they thrive, then we prob­ably can,” the state­ment read.

Hu­mans would de­pend on plant life to live out their days in an ex­tra­ter­restri­al world, just like they do on their home plan­et. Plants would provide moon dwell­ers with food, air, and medi­cine. They would also, as pre­vi­ous re­search has shown, make them feel bet­ter by re­du­cing stress, and even im­prove con­cen­tra­tion — wel­come side ef­fects for those aware that their new home is built to kill them.

NASA hopes to cul­tiv­ate its green thumb by send­ing a sealed growth cham­ber to the moon on the Moon Ex­press lander, a privately fun­ded com­mer­cial space­craft, in 2015. The 2.2-pound hab­it­at will con­tain enough oxy­gen to sup­port five to 10 days of growth and fil­ter pa­per, in­fused with dis­solved nu­tri­ents, to hold the seeds. When the space­craft lands in late 2015, wa­ter will surge in­to the cham­ber’s fil­ter pa­per. The seed­lings will use the nat­ur­al sun­light that falls on the moon for en­ergy. An identic­al growth cham­ber will be mir­ror­ing the ex­per­i­ment on Earth, and the twin ex­per­i­ments will be mon­itored and com­pared.

As­tro­nauts have been tinker­ing with plants in space for some time now, grow­ing (and even glow­ing in the dark) aboard the In­ter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion. Cul­tiv­at­ing a garden on the moon, however, is the first genu­ine life sci­ences ex­per­i­ment on an­oth­er world.

What We're Following See More »
FBI TURNED DOWN REQUEST
Report: Trump Asked FBI to Deny Russia Stories
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN. But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate."

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Many Signatures Has the Petition for Trump’s Tax Returns Received?
3 days ago
THE ANSWER

More than 1 million, setting a record. More than 100,000 signatures triggers an official White House response.

Source:
TIED TO RUSSIA INVESTIGATION
Sen. Collins Open to Subpoena of Trump’s Tax Returns
3 days ago
THE LATEST

Sen. Susan Collins, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, "said on Wednesday she's open to using a subpoena to investigate President Donald Trump's tax returns for potential connections to Russia." She said the committee is also open to subpoenaing Trump himself. "This is a counter-intelligence operation in many ways," she said of Russia's interference. "That's what our committee specializes in. We are used to probing in depth in this area."

Source:
NPR ALSO LAUNCHES ETHICS WATCH
Obama Staffers Launch Group to Monitor Trump Ethics
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

"Top lawyers who helped the Obama White House craft and hold to rules of conduct believe President Donald Trump and his staff will break ethics norms meant to guard against politicization of the government — and they’ve formed a new group to prepare, and fight. United to Protect Democracy, which draws its name from a line in President Barack Obama’s farewell address that urged his supporters to pick up where he was leaving off, has already raised a $1.5 million operating budget, hired five staffers and has plans to double that in the coming months." Meanwhile, NPR has launched a "Trump Ethics Monitor" to track the resolution of ten ethics-related promises that the president has made.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login