Lunar Plant Growth Experiment (LPX)

PI: Chris McKay, NASA/Ames Research Center

No plant-based biological spaceflight experiment has ever hydrated seeds in lunar gravity. Risk of bubbles or of uneven dispersion were deemed too great. This flight opportunity helps verify the microfluidics delivery system will disperse water to all seeds under lunar gravity. This experiment will be a first step towards a watering system for the Moon.

NASA Center Innovation Fund 2013 Award

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA06 Human Health, Life Support and Habitation Systems
  • TA07 Human Exploration Destination Systems
Problem Statement

Our mission objective is to grow the first plants on the Moon. To study germination in lunar gravity and radiation, we have constructed a small technology demonstration habitat. The self-contained habitat has a mass of about 1 kg and is a planned payload on a commercial lunar lander – Moon Express, part of the Google Lunar X-prize competition. It is slated to land on the Moon in 2015. The habitat, once flown, will be valuable as a module to be used on other flight opportunities for LEO, the Moon, and Mars.

Technology Maturation

The hardware has successfully completed Critical Design Review (CDR). Flight tests of the proto flight unit must be completed before spacecraft integration begins. The Lunar Plants team has identified a parabolic flight including a lunar g-level lasting 20 seconds as desirable to reduce risk. This opportunity will be used to test the water delivery and photographic verification systems will work in lunar gravity after being subject to microgravity.

Future Customers

Potential users include HEOMD’s space life sciences payloads for ISS centrifuges, the Moon and beyond.

Flight Experiment Objectives

This experiment will test four subsystems of a lunar plant habitat: the water distribution system, and to a lesser extent the camera system, the software controls, and the seals. The habitat mass is 1 kilogram, is the size of a coffee can or smaller, and will be hermetically sealed at one atmosphere prior to the flight.

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    NASA Directed
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    TRL 5
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 2 Parabolic

Development Team

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