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“Imagine a bright flower on a green plant in a little dome-shaped growth chamber, sitting on the landscape of the Moon, with the Earth rising up behind,” said Taber MacCallum, CEO of Paragon Space Development Corporation. “I think it’s a great vision.” That vision of the first Moon flower will likely become a reality, perhaps by 2014. Paragon has teamed up with Google Lunar XPRIZE contender Odyssey Moon to deliver a biological greenhouse to the lunar surface. “We’ve grown plants in space before, but this will be the first time we’ll attempt to grow a plant on another world,” MacCallum told Universe Today. “It’s not just a great vision, but interesting science, too.”
"It's essentially a backward space suit for a plant," said MacCallum. The prototype, shown off by Paragon, is a clear cylinder in a tapered metal frame, about a foot tall. It will have to supply the plant inside with just the right amount of carbon dioxide to live, and siphon out the oxygen the plant creates -- just the opposite of what human space travelers need. The plants could grow in soil, but a gelatin-like mix full of nutrients, known as agar to biologists, is probably more practical.
MacCallum and his wife and co-founder of Paragon, Jane Poynter are well known experts in the closed biological systems communities, and were themselves experimental subjects within a sealed ecosystem as resident scientists in the famous Biosphere 2 project of the early 90’s. They spent two years living with six others in a 3.2 acre greenhouse type structure in Oracle, Arizona, the largest closed system ever built.
NASA Ames planetary scientist Dr. Chris McKay will also be supporting the project, which is called Lunar Oasis. “The first plant to grow from seed and complete its life cycle on another world will be a significant step in the expansion of life beyond the Earth. The sooner we do it the better,” he said.
MacCallum said there are technical requirements they are still working on for the greenhouse, such as oxygen –CO2 exchange and the right materials that will let in sunlight but block the sun’s harmful rays. “It’s going to be a small growth chamber, but even that is pretty complicated,” he said.
The Biosphere 2 was an experiment to determine whether a group of people could live in a fully enclosed environment that would simulate earth (known here as the Biosphere 1). Such a place would be needed if humans were to ever hope to colonize another planet. The Biosphere 2 contained several different of earth's environments such as a rainforest, a desert, a savanna and a tropical ocean with reef. There was no circulation of water, air, soil or animals with the outside. A group of 8 people (4 men and 4 women) lived here for 2 years. A second group lived here for 6 months. Unfortunately the experiment did not work as carbon dioxide built up and oxygen had to be added 3 times in the course of the 2 years. Today, the facility offers tours. The Biosphere 2 is located about 30 miles north of Tucson near Oracle, Arizona.
Originally posted by RadicalRebel
Pretty cool article
Seems like the idea should take root faster though....
Ok...kidding aside, i remember building a micro biosphere 2 a as a science project. Even got to go on a tour when i visited there one year (not inside). Was kinda dissapointed when i learned that the exeriment was a failure (forgot why), not sure if the wver tried it again but i dont recall ever hearing much about it after that.
Would be nice to this project take place on a larger scale though, i can imagine a time in the future when people on the moon will give tours of the first garden on the moon which eventually made it possible to give tours on the moon....
Originally posted by leolady
...The Biosphere project failed because the oxygen levels dropped too low and they had to pump in oxygen. There were also social issues of the group that arose...from living in a small confined area. I think a lot was learned from the experiments so I wouldn't necessarily call it a failure. :-) ...