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A vegetable greenhouse on the moon in 2014?

The Paragon company is a member of the Odyssey Moon group competing in the Lunar X Prize and will build a small chamber that will be used as a greenhouse and inside it will conduct experiments to examine the growth of plants on the moon

Prototype of a space incubator. Illustration: Paragon Space Development Company
Prototype of a space incubator. Illustration: Paragon Space Development Company

"Imagine a bright flower growing out of a green plant in a dome-like growth chamber, standing on the surface of the moon with the Earth shining behind it." This is how Taber McCallum, CEO of Paragon Space Development Corporation, describes it. "I believe this is a great vision."

This vision of the first flower on the moon, in the "Lunar Oasis" project, may become a reality perhaps within five years. Paragon is a member of the Odyssey Moon group that participates in the Google Lunar XPRIZE private lunar vehicle launch competition. Their spacecraft is supposed to land the greenhouse on the lunar surface. "We've grown plants in space before, but this will be the first time we try to grow plants on another world," McCallum told Universe Today. "This is not only a great vision, it also has interesting scientific implications."

The Lunar X-PRIZE sponsored by Google is a prize worth 30 million dollars that will be given to the first privately funded team to launch an unmanned spacecraft to the moon, remove from it a vehicle that will travel 500 meters and transmit video, images and data to Earth. A single image might contain the spectacular sight that McCallum was talking about.

Paragon has been involved in biological research in space for several years. The company developed the kit in which reproduction and monitoring of a complete life cycle of the first life-swallows at the Mir space station was attempted. The company also participated in several commercial biological experiments on the space station.

Artist's impression of the Lunar Odyssey spacecraft. Illustration: Odyssey Moon
Artist's impression of the Lunar Odyssey spacecraft. Illustration: Odyssey Moon

The company is currently working with NASA to develop heat control and life support systems for the Orion and Altair spacecraft that will return humans to the moon.

However, growing plants on the moon is primarily intended to be used as a sonic act, McCallum says. "The experiment is an interesting scientific experiment. We grow plants on Earth in one G, and we've also done good work in microgravity on the space station, but no one has tried to look at what happens in partial gravity. Is one-sixth gravity enough for a plant to behave like it does on Earth or not?" asks McCallum who also added that the project will also provide information on how to establish a larger lunar outpost that will sustain itself in terms of food production, and perhaps eventually also settlements where greenhouses will be established to grow food for the colony.

Growing the first plant in another world also has enormous symbolic importance. "We're doing it partly because of the science, but also because it's an interesting time where people can be inspired by things that aren't necessarily related to the economy," McCallum said. . "Especially in a time when the economic situation is difficult, we need to inspire people to say 'this is cool! What a great country we have that is able to do this. We also need to encourage the children to learn math and science. The children's eyes should light up when we talk about such things."

An artist's concept of a future residential complex on the moon. Illustration: NASA
An artist's concept of a future residential complex on the moon. Illustration: NASA

McCallum and his wife and co-founder of the company, Jane Poynter, have experience with animal communities in closed ecological environments. They themselves participated in an experiment in which they were locked in the living sphere that was supposed to contain an independent ecosystem - Biosphere 2 in the early nineties. They spent two years together with six other people in a 13-acre greenhouse-like structure in Oracle Arizona, the largest closed system ever built.

McCallum says that there are technical requirements that still need to be solved to build the greenhouse, for example the process of applying the oxygen and carbon dioxide and the appropriate materials that will allow sunlight to penetrate but block the sun's more dangerous rays. "It is a small tumor cell, but even so it will be complex." said.

In addition to designing the greenhouse, Paragon's responsibilities within the Lunar Odyssey operation include designing the lander and supporting the lander's thermal control system.

For the news in Universe Today

16 תגובות

  1. It turns out that heaven on the moon has now become a reality!
    It seems that the vision of the moon blooming with skin and sinews and greenhouses on the moon does not sound such a far-fetched idea in light of the fact that water has been found on the moon in such large quantities
    With the help of water on the moon, it will be possible to grow a great deal of the nutritional consumption necessary for the survival of the settlers.
    And so also with the help of the water that is now found on the moon, the required consumption of water for life will not have to be produced from all kinds of expensive and complicated inventions because the water can be drunk directly from what is found on the soil of the moon

  2. Pine:
    They talk about a sealed system and the only reference I saw in the summary to the subject of transportation is the reference to the transportation of the system itself.
    The summary is, as expected, short, but what is clear from it is that they are aware of all the elements of the problem.
    Because of the impermeability of the system and because of the mention of the atmosphere control system, I tend to conclude from it that they also provide all the necessary gases - either as part of a closed ecosystem or by releasing them from designated containers that are already in the system.

  3. Michael,
    In addition, if you look at what you posted - next to the picture that also appeared in the article, they do not provide a solution to the source of carbon dioxide and oxygen, but point out that the system includes the ability to balance and transport the components by itself according to need (carbon, oxygen and hydrogen) throughout the life of the plants (again, guessing hand to the system where to get them).

    On the other hand, the picture below shows that a truly closed ecosystem (including a greenhouse) requires additional animals - animals or humans - in order for there to be a cycle of carbon-dioxide creation by them and the creation of oxygen needed by the plants, which is known.

    A greenhouse as stated in the article and on the website you mentioned cannot stand on its own as a closed ecosystem without an external source for the components needed for carbon dioxide.

  4. Michael,
    I don't know if you were referring to me in your response. I only mentioned the situation and the difficulties that must be overcome before it is possible to think about establishing an independent colony on the moon. In no way am I against this specific study and others designed to prepare the area for settlement and/or the establishment of bases outside of Israel in the future, when we will indeed be able to meet this.

    I think I was pretty clear on that, and if not I hope I am now.

  5. To all the detractors and all the others:
    Please take into account the fact that Paragon is a serious company with many achievements behind it.
    You should go to the company's website and prove it.
    Specifically - the project in question is indeed intended to reach Mars - eventually - as you can see in the following link:
    Scroll down a little and you will see the image that appears in this article.
    You will also see there a reference to the issue of carbon dioxide.

    Personally, one of the questions that interests me is whether they thought through to the end when they decided on the moon as an intermediate stage - this is in light of the fact that the moon has very problematic days that last for about a whole month during which half (the day half) - the surface temperature is 107 degrees and half (the night) the temperature is 153 below zero.
    One of the reasons for the rise of this concern is the seemingly innocent phrase at the beginning of the article - "when the earth shines behind it". Whoever expressed himself like that probably forgot that the Earth is at a fixed point in the moon's sky and therefore neither sets nor shines.

    It is written in the article that the motivation for the project is not financial and it is not clear to me why the presented motivation is not visible to some people (what is more, it is not an investment by any of us just as it is not our profit if the matter had economic value).

  6. The prospect for resources on the moon today turns out to be not as high as previously thought... If it was once thought that there was a huge reservoir of water in the form of ice under the surface, today the findings are very bleak and the amount that exists, if any, will not be enough to sustain a colony.

    Only for the greenhouse you need a constant supply of CO2, and none of the ingredients to create it are found on the moon (especially now that the situation on the water shows that there is hardly any if at all).
    The picture is indeed bleak regarding the initiation of a large-scale project that would even begin paving the way for a project such as a mining site or a small base on the moon, let alone a colony. And this especially in light of the economic crisis and logistical, technological and other problems.

    Today, the main ore that is a source of attraction for ore on the moon is helium-3, which in the future will be a source of clean and non-polluting fuel in a process called cold fusion - non-radioactive nuclear fusion. Helium-3 is very rare in space and in space in general and is mainly created by processes in the sun and is therefore expensive (it can be created artificially in an expensive process as well). Tens of millions of tons of the material (and that's just on the surface!), a figure that was arrived at from soil samples that came back to Israel.

    But again, even though this precious commodity - even just for it, it was worth returning to the moon and establishing a colony despite all the difficulties (for example, 25 tons of helium 3 will supply the annual consumption of the USA, and its amount of energy on the surface of the moon is at least ten times greater than coal resources , oil and natural gas on Earth!!!), the project is not worthwhile today and probably won't be worthwhile in a few decades. Why?
    Because there is nothing to do with it at the moment except for research purposes. Cold fusion has been talked about for decades, and from time to time there are publications about a breakthrough that turns out to be false, and the progress is simply slow - much slower than expected (we were sure that in our days they will already start building spacecraft that will use an engine based on helium-3, and will use special receptors to " to "pump" helium-3 from space to replenish fuel while "flying").

    In conclusion, until there is a breakthrough in cold fusion technology, or additional resources are found, or we reach an era of global economic prosperity, there is no reason to strive to establish a real base on the moon. It is true that, like many people, I am attracted to the idea of ​​advancing humanity in the universe and in science, and perhaps with appropriate technologies, the establishment of a base could make space flights cheaper (assuming that the spaceships will be built there), but unfortunately there is no feasibility yet to start this project these days. Not that I am saying to stop research on the subject, on the contrary - all the technological requirements must be built for the day we can afford them, and in addition - research for the sake of research is also especially important as it can even shed light on new directions that will be applicable in everyday life and not only in space.

    I found a link that talks about returning to the moon in particular and the use of helium-3 as a future fuel on the website:

  7. If there was a real economic incentive - it would have happened already twenty years ago. I mean the incentive of economic exploitation of the lunar resources. The resources can be materials in the lunar soil, the possibilities inherent in low gravity, the energy of the sun on its surface, etc.

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