If plans unfold as originally intended, one unexpected result of Google’s Lunar X Prize (which, like the original Ansari X Prize, is intended to spur private industry involvement in space development,) may be the transport and growth of the Moon’s first living plant.
Industry titan Paragon, a forerunner in space life support systems, is leading the charge with Odyssey, which was formed to compete for the Lunar X Prize, to create a “Lunar Oasis.” This isn’t the first time Paragon has been involved with a project of this sort, as they’d previously designed a potential Mars sealed plant growth chamber for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The Moon is a particularly harsh environment, even when compared to Mars, and the the Lunar Oasis will need to protect its floral inhabitant(s) from solar and cosmic radiation while providing a temperate environment able to supply and manage nutrients, water, carbon dioxide, and oxygen.
According to their press release more than a year ago, the ideal astro-plant is from the Brassica family (of mustard fame), which needs only 14 days to complete a growth-seed cycle.
As fate would have it, this is also the length of a lunar day.
Now, we haven’t heard from the Lunar Oasis guys in a while, (more than a year,) and this may indicate that the project has fallen away, which would be a pity. Projects like these, which capture the spirit and imagination – something familiar taking hold on an alien world – are exactly what we need these days to kindle the public mind to engage with private space.
Anyone else heard anything?