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 »
Trump to End Business Councils
14 hours ago
McConnell: “No Good Neo-Nazis”
17 hours ago
CBC Members Call for Removal of Confederate Statues from Capitol
17 hours ago

"Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are reviving calls to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol following the violence at a white nationalist rally in Virginia." Rep. Cedric Richmond, the group's chair, told ABC News that "we will never solve America's race problem if we continue to honor traitors who fought against the United States." And Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson said, “Confederate memorabilia have no place in this country and especially not in the United States Capitol." But a CBC spokesperson said no formal legislative effort is afoot.

Baltimore Removes Confederate Monuments
19 hours ago

"Confederate statues in Baltimore were removed from their bases overnight, as crews using heavy machinery loaded them onto flat bed trucks and hauled them away, an end to more than a year of indecision surrounding what to do with the memorials. The action comes after Baltimore City Council approved a plan Monday night to remove four statues linked to the Confederacy from public spaces in the city."

AFL-CIO Head Trumka Quits Council
1 days ago

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.