Someday astronauts visiting the moon could toddle out of their space shuttle, harvest basil from their lunar garden, and sprinkle it over their 3D-printed space pizza.
NASA hopes to begin growing radishes, basil, and other plants on the moon in 2015. A two-pound “greenhouse” is planned to be delivered there using an uncrewed Google Lunar X-Prize mission. From New Scientist:
The aim is to find out if the crews of moon bases will be able to grow some of their own greens, a capability that has proved psychologically comforting to research crews isolated in Antarctica and on the International Space Station, NASA says.
Factors that could confound lunar plant growth include the virtual absence of an atmosphere and high levels of solar and cosmic radiation that bombard the moon’s surface. So the space agency is developing a sealed canister with five days’ worth of air, in which seeds can germinate on nutrient-infused filter paper. The idea is that water will be released on touchdown and sunshine will do the rest.
And NASA isn’t hoping to take just agriculture to new heights — it is working to bring food production into space as well, using 3D printing. From the agency’s website:
As NASA ventures farther into space, whether redirecting an asteroid or sending astronauts to Mars, the agency will need to make improvements in life support systems, including how to feed the crew during those long deep space missions.
NASA recognizes in-space and additive manufacturing offers the potential for new mission opportunities, whether “printing” food, tools or entire spacecraft. Additive manufacturing offers opportunities to get the best fit, form and delivery systems of materials for deep space travel.