#2 February 1987
Section 220.127.116.11.002.of the Artemis Data Book
Yes, the air and water of a Lunar settlement can be chemically recycled; and
yes, the settlers can be fed synthetic foods so that it would not be
strictly necessary to bring to the Moon any representatives of other living Earth
species, plant or animal. However, most of us, I should hope, would hardly find this conducive to morale on a
lifelong basis. And a settlement of colonists chosen for their indifference
to the "real thing" could hardly be called a "human" one.
Whether we think of it or not, human beings cannot be divorced from the rest
of Earth life amongst which we have evolved not only biologically and
physiologically but culturally as well. True, many persons live in homes
and apartments that seem almost antiseptic, but Nature is just outdoors. On the
Moon there is no world of living nature just outdoors, and the colonists
will most certainly feel compelled to go overboard in compensating for the Lunar
sterility and barrenness by living in homes ( i.e. not mere modules ) that
are lush with greenery, vivid with floral color, and sonorous with bird
Now the Lunar dayspan-nightspan cycle is twenty-nine and a half times as
long as our day-night cycle; and this presents a problem for Lunar gardening.
True, a solar power satellite at L1 or some other amply sized power unit
(e.g. nuclear) might allow the colonists to cycle light and darkness to
their gardens on an artificial twenty-four hour schedule. True again, colonists
themselves will live and work on such a schedule and illuminate their homes
accordingly. But on the one hand, it is foolish to assume that energy
available will always allow such lavishly inefficient usage; on the other
hand, once the beachhead base and its modules are outgrown and the first
genuine Lunar homes are built on-site from building components produced from
the lunar regolith, it is likely that these homes will have some sort of
atrium floor plan centered around a solarium-garden flooded with sunlight
captured by a heliostat and channeled perhaps along an indirect shielded
route. ( Bear in mind that glass, though not quartz, filters out ultraviolet
). In such a garden, probably a combination of decorative and fruit and
vegetable varieties, natural lunar cycling will be the ideal -- efficiently
using available energy, and avoiding excess heat buildup. We are not ready.
Should NASA spend precious dollars needed elsewhere to pay some mercenary to
develop Moon-hardy floral and vegetable varieties? NO! It is rather up to
those of us who would go there or prepare the way for others to someday
acculturate themselves to satisfying lunar
living, to experiment at our own expense to discover the hardiest varieties
now around vis-à-vis length of the day-night cycle and keep breeding them
until we have a Burpees/Luna Catalogue full of Moon-hardy varieties to grace
Lunar homes and provide Lunar settlers with the same feeling of being
cradled by Mother Nature -- despite the stark and harsh Lunar "outlocks" -- that we
at home have grown up with here on our bounteous Earth.
Now finding plants that will thrive on fourteen and three quarters dates of
continuous sunshine will surely be a lot easier than finding those that can
shutdown, if you will, for an equal period of darkness, with the least need
for punctuation by sessions under grow lights. But the closer we approach
the ideal of natural Lunar cycling, the more efficiently will the colony be
able to use available energy, and the more autonomously would the gardens
maintain themselves. All of this holds true of the Lunar farms that will raise the major crops
and staples as well.
Ideal will be the crops that can germinate and sprout in the warm, moist
darkness and then sprint to maturity during the two week period during which
they will receive more than a month's worth of sunshine by Earth standards.
Next in desirability will be crops that mature by the end of the second
On Earth, garden flowers fall into two broad categories: annuals which bloom
all season but have to be replanted every year, and perennials which bloom
briefly but come back of themselves year after year. On the moon, the
breeding ideal will be the plant that blooms every sun period or perhaps
every other, and coasts through the sunless period without dying back.
It will take years of breeding work by many experimenters to develop the
kind of Moon-hardy plants we have briefly described. But it is a work that, at
least in its beginning stages, can be done by knowledgeable laymen. Creation
of artificial Lunar-like growing cycles indoors is a simple matter and does not require expensive high-tech
methods. Time well spent is the key.
So you see, even if the Congress were today to provide NASA and Space
Studies Institute [SSI] chemists and engineers with all the funding they could
possibly use so that hardware for a return to the Moon were ready in five
years, the effort would be doomed to failure. For it will take a lot
more than hardware and chemical engineering to make a Moon settlement
a success. There is so much more to human civilization than that.
The work necessary to predevelop an ample repertoire of suitable plants will
continue to be neglected unless it is done by such as us in the heretofore
cheering section. We commoners must roll up our sleeves. If fans of the
space movement remain just that, content to send in donations, write their
congressmen, and make phone calls, nothing will be accomplished. We must
not be lulled into believing that this is the most we can contribute to the
realization of our dream of the extension of the the human realm beyond the
traditional range of the Earth's surface.
Nor is this the only area in which there is a critical need to predevelop
Lunar "software" -- where we cannot "wait until we get there." In future
articles I will talk about other areas in which people outside NASA and the
aerospace contractors can find ample room to contribute to the successful
flourishing of a Lunar civilization.
Meanwhile those of you guys and gals who fancy yourselves possessing a green
thumb, take this as a call to arms. If enough of us were to get off our
duffs and do Lunar homework in this and other needed areas it might be
possible to network our efforts through some such vehicle as "The Mother
Moon News". Why not?
[To learn more about the MiSST and LUNAX experimental lunar agriculture efforts that followed this call to arms in the early 1990s, go to http://www.lunar-reclamation.org/page10.htm and linked pages.]
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