Artemis III: Growing plants on the moon for Mars

Exploring the moon's potential for plant growth, NASA's Artemis mission sets the stage for humanity's next giant leap into space

An undated image shows an astronaut  — NASA
An undated image shows an astronaut  — NASA

ASA's Artemis astronauts are gearing up to cultivate plants on the moon!

Three progressive experiments are set to accompany NASA’s Artemis III astronauts on their lunar journey, intended to open the door for future trips to Mars and longer stays on the moon.

Scheduled for 2026, Artemis III will mark humanity's triumphant return to the lunar surface, a feat not achieved since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Among the trio of scientific marvels chosen for this historic mission is the Lunar Effects on Agricultural Flora (LEAF) experiment. Astronauts will cultivate plants on the moon's surface, studying their photosynthesis, growth patterns, and their response to the unique challenges of reduced gravity and space radiation.

While spacefarers have experienced space gardening aboard the International Space Station for ten years, and China's Chang’e 4 mission witnessed seeds sprouting on the lunar terrain in 2019, LEAF promises to reveal the moon's first complete plant growth cycle, if successful, as reported by New Scientist.

Accompanying LEAF is the Lunar Environment Monitoring Station (LEMS), a compact seismometer primed to detect moonquakes near the lunar South Pole. By scrutinising seismic activity, scientists aim to unravel the moon's subsurface structure, crucial for future lunar exploration.

The Lunar Dielectric Analyzer (LDA) is rounding out the trio, tasked with gauging the soil's electrical conductivity. This measurement will aid in pinpointing frost deposits and tracking soil transformations during the lunar day-night cycle.

NASA's Pam Melroy praised these instruments as the cutting edge of scientific exploration, launching missions to solve the moon's mysteries and chart a course for human habitation. According to the New Scientist, the main goal of the Artemis program is to establish a long-term human presence on the moon, which will act as a springboard for ambitious human-powered missions to Mars.