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Testing the Growth of Vegetables in Lunar Mare and Highland Simulant Soils: In Preparation for Bases on the Moon before going to Mars

Presentation #142.05 in the session SETI and Planetary Habitability — iPoster Session.

Published onJun 29, 2022
Testing the Growth of Vegetables in Lunar Mare and Highland Simulant Soils: In Preparation for Bases on the Moon before going to Mars

The announcement of NASA’s Artemis Moon mission deadline of 2024 makes Earth independence a clear priority for the future of humanity. Soon, humankind will no longer be limited to a single planet which can be achieved through the establishment of permanent human bases on the Moon and Mars. These colonies will have to be self-sustaining due to the great expense of transporting soil from Earth. The Artemis “Base Camp” is planned to be near the Moon’s South Pole that features craters (e.g., Shackleton Crater) that are unique in that the near-constant sunlight does not reach their interiors permitting the build of ice. As a result, LED growth lamps will be necessary to grow plants during the mission. As part of the Villanova Undergraduate Research Fellowship (VURF), a pilot study was conducted to determine how Slobolt lettuce (Lactuca sativa) grows in different synthetic soils under only LED light sources. The LED light sources used were full-spectrum to replicate sunlight. The soils used included the Lunar Mare Simulant and the LHS-1D Lunar Highland Dust Simulant from Exolith Lab (https://exolithsimulants.com). The Lunar Mare Simulant’s chemistry closely matches the type of rock at the South Pole of the Moon. The LHS-1D Lunar Highland Dust Simulant was tested in case an alternative landing site of the lunar highlands is chosen. Martian regolith was also tested with the MMS-2 Enhanced Mars Simulant from The Martian Garden (https://www.themartiangarden.com). A secondary component of this project was to test how the type of soils seedlings were germinated in affects the growth in hydroponics systems after the seedlings have been transplanted. The results of this pilot project will be presented and discussed along with plans for follow-up studies. This project was supported by the Villanova Undergraduate Research Fellowship (VURF) program. We are very grateful for this support.

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