London, March 28 (ANI): An American firm is planning to grow the first flowers on the Moon, in a proposed greenhouse on the lunar surface.
According to a report in New Scientist, the company in question is engineering firm Paragon Space Development, which has designed habitats for plants and animals living in microgravity.
The firm plans to build a greenhouse to fly to the moon, aboard a lunar lander designed by Odyssey Moon, a competitor for the Google Lunar X Prize, a 30 million dollars contest to send an unmanned lunar rover to the moon.
The greenhouse will be used to incubate fast-growing mustard seeds on the lunar surface, in the hopes of producing flowering plants and an iconic image that could be as thrilling as the Apollo images of Earth-rise over the lunar surface.
A photograph of flowers on the moon is expected to stir up enthusiasm for spaceflight, but the team also hopes the greenhouse will be the first step in sustainable development of the lunar surface.
"Hopefully, these will be the precursors to the greenhouses you would need to live on the moon," said Odyssey Moon founder Bob Richards.
Building a greenhouse that can grow plants on the moon and be transparent enough to produce dramatic photographs will not be easy.
"We have a very tricky requirement set," said Paragon co-founder Jane Poynter.
The prototype that has been unveiled by the scientists is a metal-reinforced glass dome that is some 9 centimeters in diameter and 30 centimeters high, enough space to grow roughly six plants.
But, the enclosure will need to be modified to protect plants from the vagaries of space radiation and extremes in temperature on the lunar surface, which can range from a frigid -170 degree Celsius to just above 100 degree C.
To avoid the cold of the lunar night, which lasts for 14 Earth days, the team decided to send up a fast-growing member of the mustard family.
The mustard plant can grow from seed to flower over the course of a single lunar day, or two Earth weeks.
The launch date for the greenhouse has not yet been set.
To win the Lunar X Prize, Odyssey Moon must be the first team to landed a robotic probe on the moon, drive a rover 500 meters, and send back pictures by 2014. (ANI)