Paragon's flower growing in space container: US scientists to grow brussels sprouts on Moon
Paragon Space Development Corporation in Arizona unveiled plans to land mini-greenhouses on the Moon which would be capable to growing flowers and hardy vegetables from the brassica family, such as sprouts and cabbages. These could ultimately be used to feed livestock.
Paragon, which has worked with Nasa, describes its 1.5 ft tall space greenhouse as a "Lunar Oasis".
Paragon, an Arizona company that has partnered with NASA in previous experiments has unveiled what it called the first step toward growing flowers, and eventually food, on the Moon Photo: GETTY
It is designed to safely land a laboratory plant on the lunar surface, and protect it while it grows.
The miniature greenhouse is to be launched into space no earlier than 2012 by Odyssey Moon Ltd, a participant in the Google Lunar X Prize, which will reward any project which can launch, land and operate a rover on the lunar surface.
Because brassica goes from seed to flower in just 14 days, it can complete its life cycle in a single lunar night.
"Colonising the Moon or Mars seems so far away, but it is important that we do this research now," said Jane Poynter, the president of Paragon.
Nasa, which will retire its Space Shuttle fleet at the end of 2010, has committed to two new goals: returning astronauts to the Moon by 2020, and a manned mission to Mars by 2030.
The Moon greenhouse has been compared with an experiment at the South Pole, where conditions include a high-altitude, low air-pressure environment, and wind-chill factors of minus 100 C.
The South Pole greenhouse, now in its fifth year, allows workers living in the coldest place on Earth to dine on tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, strawberries and herbs.