Life Support Systems
Section 4.3.5.
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Plants and Food for a Permanent Moonbase

For the first flight, the crew will bring along pre-packaged food as all the astronauts and cosmonauts have done. If we can keep power going on the lunar base until the next visit, we'd like to have plants on board that flight.

As quickly as we can, we'll get agriculture going so we can close the food loop as well as atmosphere purification and revitalization. Our best guess is that we'll experiment with several isolated biopheres in inflatable habitats. We're often puzzled over whether the first moon gardens will be based on a desert biome or a humid tropical biome.

Lunar soil is great for farming, but we have to add fertilizer. There are phosphates on the moon, which is an important plant nutrient, as well as oxygen, but little carbon, hydrogen or nitrogen; these need to be imported. Years ago folks did experiments with soil samples brought back on the Apollo missions.

We're a bit concerned about the aluminum content in lunar soil, though. Some studies show a statistical link between a high aluminum content in the soil and a tendency toward early senile dementia among the local population. This is the case in Japan, for example. It could turn out that we need to be persnickety about our choice of farming soil; for instance we might have to grind up tailings from metals processing plants which have extracted aluminum. Or maybe the lunar community will have to get into hydroponics in a big way.

Or it might not be a big deal after all. We need data.

Life Support Systems

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