Many people dream about what it would be like to live in space, but NASA is already hard at work figuring out the logistics of how to do just that. Even with modern technology sustaining life in space long term will be impossible unless we learn how to create a reliable and consistent food source.
By getting back to the roots of survival as humans, NASA has already begun working on growing plants in space through their veggie experiment. This experiment sounds simple but growing a plant in space is nothing like it is here on earth.
To master the art of growing food in space, NASA has devoted a ton of time and energy to learning exactly how to grow food on the unique surface of the moon. Cracking the code and figuring out precisely what it takes to grow food in space will allow us to take long-duration lunar missions and get us one step closer to living in space.
In fact, NASA’s Artemis Program has set a goal of sending humans to the moon as soon as 2024. That is just three short years away!
With humans soon destined for space, NASA is focusing their attention on learning how to use the resources abundantly found on the moon to grow enough food to sustain astronauts while they are away from earth.
If they can figure it out, it will make long-duration lunar missions more reasonable and open up a world of possibilities for our future in space. This mission is crucial, and NASA knows that sometimes the best innovations come from our students’ bright young minds. That is why they are allowing students to be a part of this experiment and help NASA learn the best way to grow vegetables on the moon through the Plant the Moon Challenge.
Learn more about the Plant the Moon Challenge and how to engage your students!
This global science experiment gives students the opportunity to learn and gain inspiration helping NASA solve a real problem. Students who sign up for the Plant the Moon Challenge will receive a Plant the Moon Activity Kit, which includes lunar regolith simulant, a project guide, and a pH meter. With these tools, ‘ students will compete to see who can grow the best crops using the resources found on the moon.
This experiment encourages students to think outside the box by setting their own experiment parameters, including the structure of the setup, how much water they decide to give their plants, and if they want to use any nutrients or fertilizer along with their lunar simulant. This freedom allows students to really make this experiment their own and means they have a genuine chance to discover the winning formula for growing crops on the moon.
Participants can compete alone or in teams of up to 10 people. There are also two divisions to help level the playing field. One is for middle school students in grades 6-8, while the other is the high school division for students in grades 9-12.
There is still time to participate in this year’s Plant the Moon Challenge. Registration is open until Jan 15th, and NASA has extended discounted registration for competitive science members with a premium account.
If you are interested in this competition and any others in the new year, head to our competitions page to see what academic competitions are coming up. Set up your account to follow competitions that excite you and stay up-to-date on all the news with academic competitions.
Upgrade to a premium account to receive 10% off of the Plant the moon challenge. With a premium account, you can also track your progress in competitions, get insider information on academic competitions, access the ICS competitions concierge, and gain exclusive discounts on ICS-managed programs.
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 email@example.com
Every year NASA holds exciting and innovative challenges that inspire students from all over the world. From Moonbuggies to robot-astronauts. Why does a global icon like NASA encourage ambitious students to compete in these programs? There are many reasons.
For one, essential life skills are often missing from the school curriculum. The standard school curriculum leaves little opportunity to encourage students to really demonstrate all that they can do. Traditional schools don’t leave much room to challenge students and encourage collaboration and risk-taking.
In contrast, the real world is fast-paced and challenging. Students need the opportunity to push themselves to be their best. Academic competitions are a fun, collaborative, and educational way to teach students the critical skills missing in the school curriculum. Student Competitions are a great way to teach outside of the box and help students demonstrate their true academic passions and abilities. Many people will wonder what the value these competitions provide above and beyond a typical classroom. Here are 6 of the critical life lessons students can learn from competing in addition to STEM smarts:
- Academic Competitions Teach Students How to Work on a Team.
No matter what students want to be when they grow up, working well, and collaborating with others is crucial to their success. Competitions allow students to work side by side towards a common goal. They are also an excellent way for students to learn how to divide and conquer, delegate tasks, take responsibility, and succeed as a part of a larger whole. These experiences will serve them well as they venture into college and adulthood.
- Academic Competitions Demonstrate the Power of Perseverance and Hard Work.
When a students’ only chance to perform is in the classroom, they miss being pushed from good to great. Many students know what it takes to make a good grade and work hard at maintaining that. If you allow those same students to compete with other bright minds from around the country, they are naturally pushed to bring their best and try things they may have shied away from in school.
- Academic Competitions Show Students When to Lead and When to Take Direction.
In school, students are rarely given a chance to stand up and lead the way. However, to succeed in competitions, students must step out of their comfort zone and make crucial decisions on their own. This means figuring out what direction they want to go, who is leading the way, and keeping the entire project moving cohesively from start to finish. All of these are important skills students will bring with them into adulthood.
- Academic Competitions Teach Students How to Win and Lose.
Win-lose situations are always challenging, and that’s precisely why they are not incorporated into the school curriculum. Unfortunately, in real life, we will all win and lose at some point. Knowing how to handle a loss as well as a win means being able to show compassion, empathy, advocacy, and grace. Competitions give students the unique opportunity to invest in their projects and their teams and learn these valuable human lessons.
- Academic Competitions Show Students How to Handle Stressful Situations.
Stress is an inevitable part of life. Understanding how to manage stressful situations and perform well under pressure is a skill that you can only learn by doing it. Allowing students to feel the stress and anticipation of their role in the competition will teach them valuable coping mechanisms. These skills will enable students to better perform in college, their career, and personal life.
- Academic Competitions Show Students What Their Strengths and Weaknesses are.
In a structured environment like school, there is little opportunity for students to learn what they are naturally great at and what area they should focus on improving. Competitions allow students to see their strengths and weaknesses in action and see how they affect the outcome. Situations like this are priceless teaching moments students will be fortunate to have early in life.
5 ways to engage in NASA Related Competitions:
Want to get noticed by NASA and improve your cred with related science and engineering colleges and companies? Check these competitions out:
1. Moon to Mars Ice Challenge – an engineering design and technology demonstration contest for eligible undergraduate and graduate students.
2. 2021 Big Idea Challenge – University teams are asked to submit robust proposals for near-term dust mitigation (or dust tolerant) technologies that could be used for lunar applications near or in the Moon’s South Pole.
3. Human Exploration Rover Challenge – high school and college students around the US build their own human-powered rovers.
4. Zero Robotics – a high school robotics programming competition where the robots are SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites) inside the International Space Station!
5. Plant the Moon Challenge – In support of NASA’s Artemis Program and NASA SSERVI, the Institute of Competition Sciences and the University of Central Florida’s Exolith Laboratory are launching the Plant the Moon Challenge to engage students of all ages in growing their own crops in lunar simulant soil! Bringing your own food to space becomes expensive when you plan to stay for a long time, or increase the number of people to more than a handful. Growing food from lunar soil could help expand NASA’s long-term exploration efforts. In this challenge teams will be provided with lunar simulant created at the UCF Exolith Lab to match the lunar mare soil. Teams will also receive a project guide to step through designing their own plant growth experiments that will be sent back to our network of NASA scientists!
This challenge is currently gathering Expressions of interest to get early access for Project Kits including lunar simulant, the Project Guide, and a soil pH meter. Signup today to make sure your name is on the list when the program opens!
While our education system does its best to prepare students for the future, certain skills can only be taught through life experience. Skills like perseverance, collaboration, grit, and determination are the skills that set students apart for organizations like NASA. These are also the skills often overlooked by school curriculum. To find more competitions that may help get you noticed by NASA, explore competitions at the Institute of Competition Sciences through our online database. Don’t forget, use the upgraded Premium Account features to track deadlines of the competitions most interesting to you and help ICS expand our resources while you’re at it!
A global science experiment and challenge for grades 6 and up!
NASA’s Artemis Program is the United States’ new initiative to return to the Moon. Artemis will explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. However, returning humans to the Moon is challenging in many ways. One of those challenges is how to feed your crew. Bringing all of the food and water with you that is needed for long-duration human missions becomes a problem, particularly as you increase the length of stay or size of the crew. Using local resources on the Moon could greatly enhance our capabilities to explore our celestial neighbor.
This begs us to ask the question, can you plant the moon? Can you grow crops in lunar regolith (a.k.a. soil to us Earth-lubbers)? What nutrients, fertilizers, or other modifications to the regolith are needed to grow nutrient rich, sustainable food sources for future astronauts?
Understanding how we can use lunar soils to grow crops is one of the next great steps in supporting our return to the Moon! Scientists at NASA and the University of Central Florida among other places have started studying this with vegetables. Through the Plant the Moon Challenge you can help NASA scientists and the academic community at large learn the best lunar crop conditions by completing your own Plant the Moon Challenge project and sharing your results with the world!
The Plant the Moon Challenge is a global science experiment, learning activity and inspirational competition to see who can grow the best crops using lunar regolith simulant. Teams of middle school, high school, university, or adult participants will define and conduct their own plant growth experiments using the lunar simulant. Teams must define their own experimental parameters such as the structure of the plant growth setup, amount of water used, and nutrients or fertilizer added to the regolith simulant to help support plant growth. After a 10-week growing period teams will submit final project reports and join the global network of researchers helping to expand our lunar exploration capabilities!
Projects will be evaluated by NASA scientists and other researchers based upon a review of the experimental setup and the results of the plant growth. Teams will submit photos (optional videos), and an experiment report. Best-in-show awards will be provided to teams with the best plant growth results and experimental design.
Send in your Expression of Interest today to get on the early access list for this program when it is released (expected for November 2020)!