Mizuna lettuce growing on the International Space Station. Photo courtesy NASA
NASA hopes that by 2015 plants will take root in space, and astronauts can get a fresh salad on the moon. The LPX — Lunar Plant Growth Habitat project — is a “simple sealed growth chamber that can support germination over a 5-10 day period in a spacecraft on the Moon.” NASA Ames Research Center in California is working on growing basil, lettuce, turnips and flowers in these systems.
Growing lettuce on the moon is more than giant leap for plantkind, according to the LPX website. Vegetation is key to establishing a sustainable space station, providing food and oxygen, even psychological comfort for space explorers. Plants will act as a “canary in the coal mine”; scientists can study the basil and lettuce for signs of radiation.