Prototype Lunar Greenhouse

This prototype lunar greenhouse was designed by researchers at the University of Arizona; it is an 18-foot long tube that contains water-cooled sodium vapor lamps and "envelopes" to hold the seeds.

(Prototype lunar greenhouse)

It would be buried beneath the moon's surface, so to not be destroyed by cosmic rays and solar flares, and would be operated autonomously, so that food could be ready when astronauts arrive. A lunar greenhouse could be essential for colonizing the moon, which has no atmosphere, no natural water, and extreme temperatures.

The Arizona system works by feeding carbon dioxide into the greenhouse through pressurized tanks. At a lunar base astronauts would provide carbon dioxide by breathing, and water for the plants could be extracted from their urine. Sunlight could be channeled to the underground plants through fiber optic cables.

Robert Heinlein had an idea for a lunar greenhouse that would recycle more than the astronaut's urine and breath; consider the lunar greenhouse tunnel from his 1966 novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress:

Like all loonies, we conserve our dead and am truly glad the barbaric custom of burial was left back on old Earth; our way is better. But Davis family does not put that which comes out of processor into our commercial farming tunnels. No. It goes into our little greenhouse tunnel, there to become roses and daffodils and peonies among soft-singing bees...

Take a look at this related story about a lunar oasis greenhouse (with video).

Via MIT's Technology Review.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/19/2010)

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