The moon is a lifeless rock, but despite no living thing ever having been found on its desolate surface, some forms of Earth life might be able to make it.
By 2025, researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) hope to cultivate plants on the moon in partnership with the startup Lunaria One. Israel's Beresheet 2 lander will carry the Australian Lunar Experiment Promoting Horticulture (ALEPH-1) payload into orbit. This project was unveiled immediately after Israel's first moon mission in 2020 ended in failure. Similar research was conducted by China on its Chang'e 4 lander, and cotton seeds were successfully sprouted.
On the moon, nothing has ever been grown directly. The ALEPH-1 plants and seeds will be protected in a room, but they will still encounter several difficulties. On the moon, gravity will be weaker, day and night will span seven Earth days each, and there won't be an atmosphere to shield the surface from damaging solar radiation. Water will also be extremely valuable there.
ANU plant biologist and research adviser for Lunaria One Caitlyn Byrt said in a statement that "space is an ideal testing ground for how to produce plants in the most harsh of circumstances."
ANU and Lunaria One researchers will collaborate to choose the most promising candidates before the launch. Some candidate plants, like an Australian grass called Tripogon loliformis, are referred to as "resurrection plants." These plants are like the botanical equivalent of the hardy microscopic "water bear," or tardigrade: They are able to spring back to life and thrive even after protracted periods of dormancy and dehydration. Simply add water.
Plants that can endure on the moon might be more than just a food source. They may also provide astronauts with oxygen to breathe, and some may be utilized to create drugs that, in the future, may be produced locally rather than through shipments from Earth.
ALEPH-1 can also help us understand how to deal with climate change on Earth by pointing out edible plant species that can withstand harsh conditions and quickly recover from setbacks like drought.
Byrt stated in the statement, "If you can develop a system for cultivating plants on the moon, then you can develop a system for cultivating food in some of the most difficult settings on Earth."
At least some of the seeds should germinate within the first 72 hours after Beresheet 2 touching down and ALEPH-1 watering its seeds, according to Byrt and her coworkers. The payload will be routinely returning photographs to Earth during that time that the mission plans to release.
Source credit : https://www.space.com/moon-plants-beresheet-lunaria-one
Edited by : Ankit Biswas (LinkedIn)