By Sarah Griffiths | MailOnline
Nasa is taking one small step to seeing if humans could live on the moon by planning an experiment to explore whether plants can be grown in the harsh lunar environment.
The U.S. space agency plans on sowing its first seeds in specially designed canisters containing everything that is needed for the seedlings to thrive, that it will send to the moon in 2015.
A group of scientists, students and volunteers - known as the Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team - are constructing a small unit to study the germination of plants when exposed to lunar gravity and radiation.
They plan is to install small containers with seedlings and filter paper impregnated with the nutrients they need, then monitor their growth using sensors and cameras to send information about their progress to Earth.
The Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team is constructing a small technology demonstration unit (illustrated right) to study germination of plants (mock-up pictured left) in lunar gravity and radiation on the moon. The experiment will hint at whether humans could one day live there.
Seedlings can be as sensitive as humans to environmental conditions and sometimes even more so, according to Nasa, which explained their genetic material can be damaged like radiation.
The space agency said: ‘They can test the lunar environment for us acting as a canary in a coal mine.’
Thriving plants need the same ingredients for life as humans – food, water and air – and also provide psychological comfort for people, demonstrated by the popular greenhouses in Antarctica and the International Space Station.
‘If we send plants and they thrive, then [humans] probably can,’ Nasa says on its website.
Nasa plans on sending the seedlings to the moon by hitching a lift on a commercial spacecraft called the Moon Express lander, which is competing to win Google’s Lunar X-Prize in 2015.
Scientists are currently constructing a unit to study the germination of the plants, which will have a mass of just one kilogram and will be deposited on the moon.
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