NASA scientists will grow plants on the moon in 2026

NASA Wants To Grow Plants On The Moon If You’re Sick Of Neglecting Your Earth Plants

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Tree huggers, good news. NASA says it plans to deploy astronauts to the Moon to grow plants. This means that if all goes according to plan, we might just see flowers bloom on the lunar surface.

The space organisation is conducting three new experiments as part of its ambitious Artemis III exploration plan. One of those experiments is titled the “Lunar Effects On Agricultural Flora” (LEAF), where astronauts will set out to observe how plants grow on the Moon, and how the Moon’s surface and environment affects their growth.

How fun! It’s like a primary school science class experiment — except the stakes are much higher, of course.

Agriculture in space

LEAF’s mission is to “understand the use of plants grown on the Moon for both human nutrition and life support on the Moon and beyond”, NASA says. However, it’s not the first time that space scientists have attempted to be botanists and farmers on the Moon.

In 2022 NASA shared a breakthrough study revealing that plants can, indeed, grow on lunar soil. But instead of growing seeds directly on the Moon — the Artemis III model — NASA brought lunar soil samples back to Earth for the study.

In 2019, China’s Chang’e space mission program successfully saw cotton, rapeseed and potato seeds sprout on the Moon in a highly-protected chamber. Unfortunately, those little buds did not last long.

In Australia, startup Lunaria One is embarking on a similar mission to transport and grow plants on the lunar surface. Scientists from ANU, QUT and RMIT are teaming up for the mission. Lunaria One co-founder Graham Dorrington told the ABC in 2023 that it is a project “intended as a small step to support NASA’s Artemis program”. 

NASA says LEAF will commence in 2026, and that three new astronauts will be selected for the Artemis III exploration program. Their identities have yet to be revealed, but NASA promises that it will land “the first woman, first person of colour, and its first international partner astronaut”.

Image: Rick & Morty via YouTube