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European Space Agency unveils new plan for growing plants on the moon

With the aim of establishing a long-term presence on the moon, the European Space Agency (ESA) is working on a new project that will help determine whether growing plants on the lunar surface is feasible. Led by Norway Solsys miningthe project will try to develop a method to convert lunar soil into fertilizer for use in hydroponic farming.

The study builds on previous research on lunar soil samples. Although lunar soil, also known as regolith, is rich in most of the nutrients needed for plant growth, it compacts in the presence of water, making it problematic for seeds to develop healthy root systems.

Hydroponics sidesteps this challenge, as the roots can be grown directly in nutrient-rich water instead of soil. But to ensure that the water used in the hydroponic system is nutritious, the ESA and Solsys Mining will need to develop a method that extracts nutrients from regolith, concentrates the valuable elements before use and removes the unwanted ones.

This requires three steps, as illustrated below. First, regolith would be pulled through a mechanical sorting area. Next, nutrients would be extracted by a processing plant, before being dissolved in water and pumped into a greenhouse for hydroponics.

agriculture on the moon ESA