Science 3 min read

NASA Scientist Experiments with Growing Radishes on Lunar Soil

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Humans are not built to survive on the lunar surface.

Aside from the lower gravitational pull of the moon, there’s also the thinner atmosphere. Without the Earth‘s atmosphere to protect us, cosmic rays could damage our cell structure and DNA.

Fortunately, adapting to the rigors of an alien world is not as challenging for plants.

According to NASA, scientists started sending algae to space in the 1950s. What’s more, United States astronauts on the ISS have been enjoying homegrown lettuce since 2015.

Now, NASA scientist Max Coleman and colleagues are working to take space agriculture to the next level. The team is experimenting with growing radishes on lunar soil.

In NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) press release, Max Coleman said:

“We’re trying to show astronauts can use horticulture to grow their own food on the Moon.”

But why grow radishes?

Coleman explained that he chose radishes because “they have been used before in space, and they germinate very, very fast.

The choice isn’t surprising, considering astronauts that only get 14 Earth days of daylight to grow the plant. After that, there are another 14 Earth days with no sunlight.

Here’s how it began.

Planting Radishes on Lunar Soil in the Kitchen

At first, Coleman and his team were conducting a hands-on test of special sensors that might eventually be used on the moon. But, they had to pause the test due to the coronavirus pandemic

That was when Coleman decided to take matters into his hand. The NASA scientist ordered some radish seeds online, as well as some desert sand to plant the seed.

Coleman chose the desert sand because it had as much nutrient as you would find in the lunar regolith. He then added some small amount of nutrients to sample sand, while the other got no nutrient.

For planting, Coleman used paper towels and later, plastic takeout containers. He also used folded tin foil and battery tester to measure and track moisture levels.

Radishes Could Probably Grow on the Moon

Findings from Coleman’s experiment suggested that radishes only need a small amount of water to grow. Even better, the vegetable thrived when it received a minimal amount of water.

One of the space travel aims is to reduce the number of things that astronauts have to take to the moon. As you may have guessed, growing radishes on lunar soil make the goal more attainable.

The more you can use what’s already there, the more efficient you can be because you don’t have to carry that much with you,” Coleman explained.

Read More: Mushroom Base Could House NASA Scientists on Mars

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Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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