Plant the Moon in Your Own Backyard!
Posted October 26, 2020 by Aisha Abdullah, PhD
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be on the moon, the Plant the Moon Challenge is the closest you can get right here on the Earth! In this competition, you’ll get hands-on with lunar simulant and discover what it takes to feed NASA astronauts on long-duration lunar missions. You’ll explore the question of can we grow enough crops on the lunar surface without having to take everything from the Earth?
Sending Artemis to the Moon
NASA recently launched the Artemis program, fittingly named after Greek god Apollo’s twin sister, pledging to land the first woman on the moon by 2024 and to embark on sustainable exploration of the lunar surface by 2030. These moon explorations are preparation for future expeditions to Mars.
A key component of sustainable exploration is the ability of astronauts to grow their own food on long missions. In the decades since the Apollo mission, researchers have developed lunar soil simulants that mimic the chemistry, composition, and physical characteristics of the actual soil found on the moon’s surface. Lunar simulants allow researchers to test plant growth in agricultural conditions similar to what astronauts will face on future long-term lunar missions and determine if lunar soil can support crops.
What Grows on the Moon?
In the Plant the Moon Challenge, students become the investigators as they determine how best to grow plants on the moon. Working in teams of up to 10, participants will receive lunar regolith simulant from the University of Central Florida’s CLASS Exolith Laboratory and a project guide from the Institute of Competition Sciences (ICS). Because the Moon is completely sterile of any biologic components, students will need to explore what must be added to the lunar soil in order to allow crops to grow! Mass, grain size, water requirements, and other physical properties of the experiment will be important.
Students will design and implement their own projects testing variables related to plant growth in lunar simulant soil. Winning projects will be selected by NASA scientists and ICS scientific evaluators. The competition is open to individuals and teams of students from grade 6 to university level from around the world.
Plan the Moon is hosted by the ICS and premium account holders receive a 10% discount on the entry fee! Registration is open November 15 – January 15.
For questions about Plant the Moon, contact firstname.lastname@example.org