Scientists have been planning for long-term establishments on the moon in recent future. But the astronauts can’t live off freeze-dried food for extended space journeys.
So, for providing fresh food to astronauts, scientists are conducting many experiments to grow plants in lunar soil.
Scientists are working on ways to use the lunar regolith for growing plants for food and oxygen to breathe
For developing a way to convert lunar soil into fertilizer European Space Agency has joined hands with Norwegian lunar agriculture company Solsys Mining.
One of the major issues with the lunar regolith is it lacks nitrogen compounds that are partially responsible for plant growth on Earth. Moreover, lunar soil also gets tightly compact once wet, which further creates trouble in putting down healthy and strong roots.
So the researchers are considering growing plants using hydroponics. Hydroponics is the technique of growing plants using a water-based nutrient solution instead of soil. It has successfully been utilized for vertical farming facilities.
This study aims at extracting nutrients in the lunar regolith to create fertilizer for hydroponic farming
This would require building a processing plant on the moon’s surface. The processing plant would pull out nutrients from the soil and then dissolve them in water. The nutrient-rich water so produced can then be pumped into a greenhouse for hydroponic farming.
Malgorzata Holynska, ESA materials and processes engineer, said, “This work is essential for future long-term lunar exploration,”
“Achieving a sustainable presence on the Moon will involve using local resources and gaining access to nutrients present in lunar regolith with the potential to help cultivate plants. The current study represents a proof of principle using available lunar regolith simulants, opening the way to more detailed research in future.”