Mar 17, 2017
This Greenhouse Could Be Over (and On) the MoonBy Tim Hodson

Two students at the University of Illinois have developed a miniature lunar “greenhouse” that could someday lead to humans growing plants on the moon.

According to the university’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, Alex Darragh, a freshman in agricultural and biological engineering, and Matt Steinlauf, a freshman in mechanical engineering, have designed a greenhouse device that is about the size of a soda can.

When the device is placed on the moon, it has a small screw on it that drills into and lifts the lunar soil into the shell, and drops it into rotating cups. When the screw retracts, the hole closes and the device pressurizes and heats up. Tubes deposit seeds, water and fertilizer into the cups that can then be grown.

The students are currently conducting lab experiments growing different types of plants in a lunar soil stimulant. They also are conducting tests on different types of fertilizers that work best with the plants and might be able to be used on the moon. They also are trying to figure out the best growing methods that will work with the moon’s light.

They’ve named their project the Regolith Revolution. Regolith is the loose soil that is on the moon.

Darragh and Steinlauf have submitted their greenhouse device to TeamIndus, an aerospace research organization in India that is sponsoring the Lab2Moon Challenge.

In December, TeamIndus will be flying a robotic mission to the moon and the group would like to include a student-developed project that could potentially help humans live on the lunar surface.

Darragh and Steinlauf are hoping their project will win the Google Lunar XPrize, a global competition to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. More than 3,000 applications from 15 countries were entered into the competition and the U of I project is one of 25 finalists could make it onto the lunar flight.

You can learn more about this greenhouse with very, very high ambitions by going to www.regolithrevolution.com.

— Tim

 


Tim Hodson

Tim Hodson is the editorial director of GPN and Big Grower. He can be reached at [email protected]



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