Lunar Farming

Could farmers one day grow food on the moon?
By Jeffrey Kluger
As seen on
Two LEGO astronauts on the moon tending to plants. One drives a rover in the background.
Science photographer Tyler Jones used Lego figures and plant samples to create a model moon farm.

Astronauts may soon be going to the moon again. NASA plans to build bases 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 farms. But can plants grow on the moon? 

Maybe. That’s according to a new study published in Communications Biology. It turns out, success could depend on where on the moon you do your planting.

In the 1960s and 1970s, NASA’s Apollo program sent astronauts to the moon. In the new study, scientists used soil brought back from past moon missions to grow plants here on Earth.

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

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

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.

This story was originally published in TIME on May 12, 2022.