Saturday, April 20, 2024

NASA’s Artemis astronauts will try to grow plants on the moon -Dlight News

NASA has selected the first science experiments that astronauts will bring to the moon as part of the Artemis III mission. This mission, currently planned for 2026, will mark the first time humans have walked on the lunar surface since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

The first of the three scientific instruments is called Lunar Effects on Agricultural Flora (LEAF). In this experiment, astronauts will grow plants on the surface of the moon, observing their ability to photosynthesise and grow, and how they respond to the stress of lower gravity and space radiation.

This won’t be the first time plants have been grown in space – astronauts have been growing vegetables aboard the International Space Station for a decade, and China’s Chang’e 4 mission sprouted seeds on the moon in 2019. Those seeds didn’t last long, though, so if all goes well, LEAF will give us our first glimpse of the full growth cycle of plants on the moon.

The second experiment is the Lunar Environment Monitoring Station (LEMS), a small seismometer designed to measure moonquakes near the lunar south pole. Characterising how the ground moves during those quakes will help researchers understand the underground structure of the area.

The final instrument, called the Lunar Dielectric Analyzer (LDA), will measure how electrically conductive the soil is. Ice bound to dust particles drastically increases the ability of the soil to conduct electricity, so the LDA will help the hunt for deposits of frost and measure changes in the soil as the sun rises and sets over the lunar surface.

“These three deployed instruments were chosen to begin scientific investigations that will address key Moon to Mars science objectives,” said NASA’s Pam Melroy in a statement. The ultimate goal of the Artemis programme is to lay the groundwork for a long-term human presence on the moon, which will, in turn, teach us how to prepare for crewed missions to Mars.

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