Moon and Companions
Two bright companions form a beautiful arc with the Moon at first light tomorrow. Orange Mars is to the left or lower left of the Moon, with the star Regulus about the same distance to the upper right.
The Moon and Mars are both possible sites for future human colonies. There are a lot of challenges to overcome before we can build such bases. One of them is developing a way to feed the colonists. Shipping food from Earth would be hugely expensive, so colonists would need to feed themselves.
Researchers at the University of Arizona have been experimenting with a possible lunar greenhouse for several years.
It consists of aluminum rings wrapped in a tough plastic skin. It’s about 18 feet long and seven feet in diameter. Plants are grown in plastic vats filled with water and nutrients.
The greenhouse is designed to fold like an accordion, and to deploy itself once it reaches its destination. On the Moon, it’d be covered with dirt to protect it from radiation and meteorites. Sunlight could be piped in using optical fibers.
The researchers say that such a greenhouse could supply enough vegetables to feed one person per day. In addition, the plants would provide oxygen, and they could recycle waste water to produce clean drinking water.
Colonists won’t be settling on the Moon and Mars for many decades. But once they get there, perhaps they’ll be able to feed themselves with fresh veggies grown in their own greenhouses.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.