The moon is now known to have water, but could it one day have plants, too? That's a possibility in 2015, if NASA has its way.
The space agency recently revealed plans to grow a moon garden, lush with Arabidopsis plants, basil, and turnips. This "greenhouse" experiment would determine whether seedlings can germinate and grow on the moon under lunar sunlight.
Researchers with the Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team also plan to test how plants respond to the moon's high radiation levels.
The idea to start such a garden isn't new. Why do it now? NASA says a moon garden is the first step in testing whether humans could one day live on the moon for extended periods of time:
If we send plants and they thrive, then we probably can. Thriving plants are needed for life support (food, air, water) for colonists. And plants provide psychological comfort, as the popularity of the greenhouses in Antarctica and on the Space Station show.
NASA may launch the essentials for the lunar greenhouse during Google's unmanned Lunar X-Prize mission in 2015.
Seedlings are to be housed in specially designed containers -- which NASA is calling for students to create -- that will contain water and air. Once on the moon, the plants will be monitored using cameras and sensors over a period of five to 10 days. Researchers will then compare the plants to control samples of plants on Earth.