Soon to grow on the moon: Brussels sprouts and flowers

Not only does the White House have a vegetable garden, the moon may, too, in a few years. And flowers, too.

Into space: Paragon Space Development Corp. hopes to grow the first plants on the moon in three to five years.

The idea of growing common flowers and vegetables on the moon seems like something out of a SF novel. But it's probably going to happen sooner than you think. The Telegraph reports that cabbage and Brussels sprouts could be growing in a mini-greenhouse on the moon in 2012.

The idea is to find out if and how a moon colony could produce its own food.

Why Brussels sprouts, which would rarely top a veggie popularity poll? "Because," says the article," brassica [the family of which cabbages, sprouts, broccoli, and kale are members] goes from seed to flower in just 14 days, it can complete its life cycle in a single lunar night."

So future residents of Mars -- unlike a former US president -- better be fans of broccoli.

But even space colonizers can't live by cabbage alone. They will need beauty. Paragon Space Development Corp., the Arizona company behind this (in partnership with Odyssey Moon Ltd.), is also planning to experiment with flowers and possible aquatic plants on the moon by 2014, reports

Wouldn't it be neat if eventually moonflowers could grow on the moon?

"Plants have been grown in essentially zero gravity and, of course, in Earth gravity, but never in fractions of gravity,” said Dr. Volker Kern, Paragon’s Director of NASA Human Spaceflight Programs, who conducted plant growth experiments in space on the Space Shuttle. “Scientifically it will be very interesting to understand the effects of the moon and one-sixth gravity on plant growth.”

The company also reports: "NASA Ames planetary scientist Dr. Christopher McKay will be supporting the Lunar Oasis science team. '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.'

Click here to see a video about growing flowers on the moon.

Typically, stories about space exploration divide people into two camps -- 1. Why are we doing this? We should spend the money on Earth, where it's more needed. Or 2. This really fires the imagination. We have to look to the future, and part of that future will be in space.

As you can guess from the fact that I've posted this, I belong to the latter group. Always have. While I understand and sympathize with viewpoint 1, I tend to agree with Jane Poynter, president and founder of Paragon, who said: “Imagine a bright flower on a plant in a crystal clear growth chamber on the surface of the Moon, with the full Earth rising above the moonscape behind it; these are the ideas that got me interested in space.”

Note: Coming Monday, April 20: Ten garden bloggers (including Diggin' It) reveal the six plants they can't live without.

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