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Space Greens

Astronauts may soon be going to the moon again. NASA plans to build bases base GREG PEASE—GETTY IMAGES the main place where people work or live (noun) The plane delivered supplies to a remote village, then returned to base. there. The astronauts will not be able to take all the food they will need. So they may have to grow some of it on lunar lunar DANIEL GARRIDO—GETTY IMAGES having to do with the moon (adjective) From their spaceship, the astronauts could see mountains on the lunar surface. farms (see “Toy Story”).

But can plants grow on the moon? Maybe. That is according to a new study. Scientists used soil brought back from past moon missions. They used it to grow plants here on Earth. It turns out, success could depend on where on the moon you do your planting.

Closer to Home

Astronaut Harrison Schmitt gathers soil on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission, in 1972.


In the 1960s and 1970s, NASA ran the Apollo program. It sent astronauts to the moon. In the new study, scientists used soil that astronauts collected there.

A scientist weighs a sample of lunar soil. Seeds will be planted in it and watered.


Scientists put this soil in little cups. Each cup got about a teaspoon of lunar soil. Other cups got Earth soil. The scientists planted seeds. They watered the soil. They put the cups under growth lights.

The plants have been placed under growth lights.


In the Earth soil, plants sprouted healthy leaves. Moon soil sprouted leaves too. But those plants were smaller. And they were less healthy. The older the moon soil, the worse the plants grew.

The plants have sprouted. They are not as healthy as those grown in Earth soil.


Stephen Elardo is one of the scientists. He says it still might be possible to grow plants on the moon. The key could be finding the right spot. One example may be where volcanoes once erupted. The soil is newer there. Scientists still have much to learn. But this study brings humans one step closer to calling the moon home.

Toy Story


What might a lunar farm look like? Tyler Jones helps us imagine it. He is a science photographer. He took most of the photos you see with this story.

For fun, Jones created a model moon farm. He used Lego figures. He also used the same kinds of plants that scientists grew in moon soil. His pictures show how moon farms might work.