Greenhouses on the moon

After growing plants in lunar soil, scientists see huge implications for crops in outer space and on Earth. 

NASA's Artemis program, an ambitious public/private venture that teams the space agency with research scientists from around the world and space exploration specialists at the likes of SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, and Blue Origin, has been hailed as the most significant "moonshot" program in half a century.

The primary goal for Artemis is to build a long-term presence on the moon by the end of the decade, and eventually catalyze a flywheel effect in the form of pioneering new modes of transport, advancing new lunar-ready technologies, as well as triggering a raft of scientific discoveries out in space and here below on Earth. This gargantuan $35 billion mission has not yet borne fruit—but it is beginning to sprout leaves.

The latest scientific breakthrough to come out of the Artemis program was published last month in the scientific journal Communications Biology. A team of horticultural scientists from the University of Florida's Space Plants lab-made history by growing leafy green plants in a few teaspoons of lunar dust known as regolith on loan from NASA. In announcing the achievement, the scientists called their work "a first step toward one day growing plants for food and oxygen on the moon, or during space missions."

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