In the age of unmanned missions to the moon, flowers might become the next iconic picture that will “stir enthusiasm for spaceflight.” And Paragon Space Development wants to be the first company to plant said flowers on the moon. Paragon’s CEO, Taber MacCallum, will plant the seeds in a greenhouse that has been designed to block off space radiation and withstand the moon’s extreme temperatures —which can dip to 240 degrees below Fahrenheit (F) at night and rise to 225 degrees F during the day.
Here’s how MacCallum plans to pull off his feat. First, the greenhouse (made of metal-reinforced glass) will hitch a ride on the Odyssey Moon, one of the competitors for the Google Lunar X Prize. When the greenhouse lands on the moon’s surface, the incubated mustard seeds will complete their life cycle, and bloom into six flowers (that’s all there’s room for). While it would take two weeks for a mustard seed to blossom into a flower on earth, it’ll take just a single lunar day for the flower to bud on the moon.
The “lunar gardeners” are still working out some key details, such as how to control photosynthesis in the greenhouse while blocking out harmful rays. And while soil is great for growing plants on earth, MacCallum thinks a stickier substance like seaweed-based agar would work better on the moon.
A space bouquet is not so far fetched: Paragon has a good track record of growing flowers in zero-g conditions, and has successfully grown the first aquatic plant in space. If the flowers bloom under the unusual gravitational pull, then the next step might be growing food on the moon.
Image: Courtesy of Paragon Space Development