Why can't we plant trees on the moon?

Take some water, dirt and some plants to the moon and start planting. Put them in a green house make some oxygen and live on the moon. Well, would it work?

I suppose it’s possible, providing you gave them the proper soil, water, and air.

But they’d be awfully lonely, wouldn’t they… :frowning:

The moon has no atmosphere (sp) and even if you forget about that if the trees were in the sun they would burn up.In the shade they would freeze.

Well, IANAS, but it would have to be in a greenhouse (since there is no atmosphere on the moon), and that greenhouse would be mighty expensive to build. I would also imagine that the temperature would need to be regulated, which would need some fuel supply, which would also be expensive.

In summary, it’s kinda like a waterproof sponge. Yeah, you could do it, but why?

If you check out the Biosphere project, you’ll see what they’ve done to make a viable self-contained lifesized biosphere. It’s pretty big. It also doesn’t work. They have to keep introducing trace chemicals and other things because some of those plants are cannibals, among other things.

I have a slightly more specific, scientific question: What do we know about the affects of lower gravity on the growth of plants? For example, how would an apple tree grow (assuming we could control the atmosphere, temperature, etc.)? How would the fruit develop?

If plants are truly going to be able to survive on the moon, they need a steady supply of Carbon Dioxide. If you don’t wanna spend your team breathin on em, perhaps shipping all our heavy industry over there??? Oh yeah, let’s not forget blocking out cosmic radiation. Nuthin worse than tumor infested carrots. Oh yes, we must make sure the cost of the energy we spend trying to keep their temperature stable doesn’t exceed whatever it we gain from them(beauty? cheap paper?).

The lunar day is awfully long. 29.5 days to be precise, so your tree is going to be in the dark for around 2 weeks. I doubt it would enjoy that.

Well, we could put in really big sun lamps, just as in the forest in the dome orbiting Saturn.

I don’t think so: I’m pretty sure that there’s no nitrogen in Lunar soil. Unless you want to cart up your own dirt. Or at least cart up the microorganisms that that can ‘fix’ the nitrogen in the soil and wait a couple of years.


I worked at Biosphere 2 for nearly seven years. Suring the two year sealed “mission” they did pump in oxygyen to compensate for the CO[sub]2[/sub] that was sequestered in the unsealed concrete surfaces. Please explain just what “trace chemicals” they added and how it didn’t work.

you might be able to get plants to grow on mars since it does have a thin co2 atmosphere .

Doc, these kids are too young to remember that movie. (BTW, wasn’t Bruce Dern’s character an idiot for not remembering till it was nearly too late that plants need sunlight?)

kmudd, they’d have to be very hardy plants to live on Mars, considering how cold it gets there. Lichens, maybe.

Besides temperature regulation, radiation would be a problem. A good solar flare would produce a lethal amount of radiation for a person. I don’t know how much a plant could withstand, but without a big fat atmosphere to absorb it (or a magnetic field to divert the particles) the radiation would probably kill everything.

With regard to the OP, it’s not a matter so much as to why we can’t. I’m sure there have been academic and governmental plans drawn up. And these plans might work. Maybe~whatever.

The bottom line is the Bottom Line. GW Bush seems likes he’s committed to waste billions on a missle defense sheild at the expense of real scientific research in fields like cancer, AIDS, physics, argriculture, non-oil fuel sources, and whatever. Although physics related to the missle shield probably will be seeing more goverment funding.

Think about how much it takes to put a green house or a gallon of water on the moon. It costs a shit load to launch a single pound of anything into orbit; what would it cost to send it to the moon?

Yeah, we (the US)could probably figure out how to work a green house on the Moon, the question is: why would we? (in terms of what the government plans to spend).

Just to add to all the other problems people have come up with: I came across a comment at this site the other day which suggested that plants might have problems growing in low Martian gravity, since the low gravity affects the surface tension of water, which may have a knock-on effect on the process of osmosis, which plants kind of need.

I’m a bit dubious about this - haven’t plants been grown successfully aboard space stations (in free fall conditions)? Were there any problems of this type reported in the literature?

The basic gist of the OP, it seems, is could we terraform the Moon? (Terraform means make it more earthlike, so people could survive there without spacesuits.)

Folks have already discussed some of the problems of growing normal earth-plants on the Moon: you need CO[sub]2[/sub], water, nutrients, a temperature-regulated environment, and probably artificial sunlight to survive the long lunar night. Basically, you’d end up with trees-in-a-jar, useful as part of an enclosed human habitation–but they’re not going to provide an atmosphere on the Moon.

For that, you need something (like bacteria or something) that can survive on the surface of the Moon. With no atmosphere. And no water. And precious few nutrients in ready-to-eat form. And while being constantly bombarded by radiation. And, even if you could hypothetically start producing an atmosphere, the Moon is small, so it has very little gravity to hold on to that atmosphere–it’s going to lose a lot of gasses to space, so you’d need some very efficient atmosphere-producing lifeforms to do the trick.

Doesn’t sound to promising. Terraforming Mars is a much better bet.

Here’s a Biology FAQ that mentions the difficulty plants experience during flowering and seed production in microgravity because of the lack of gravitationally-controlled fluid flow. Here’s a report with a bit more technical detail. And here’s an abstract that might be helpful to a botanist. . .

oops. sorry. Guess the chemicals weren’t as ‘trace’ as I remembered.

Dang this site. Everytime I open my mouth, there’s a ‘bang’ and my foot starts hurting and next thing you know I’m babbling again…

My intention was not to stomp anyone so sorry about your tootsies.

There has been a lot of misrepresentation of what Biosphere 2 did and did not accomplish. The original goal of making a sealed enviroment - aside form energy and information - that sustained itself for 100 years was a bit far fetched but I never considered it a failure.

A shitload of stuff didn’t work as expected. Lots of plants and animals didn’t survive from the bees who kept flying into the glass (no UV came though and the steel frame distupted magnetic fields) to the bush babies that crawled into the electric distrobution busses. BZZZZT! crackle-crackle

CO[sub]2[/sub] was absorbed by concrete the way it is by limestone. On the surace it seems like a good thing but for every carbon atom, which there is plenty of, it sequesters it takes up two oxygen atoms which are in shorter supply. It got pretty bad. The navy wanted to partner research because they had never performed human tests under such an enviroment but the management blew the opportunity. At the worst point the folks inside had trouble climbing a flight of stairs and a candle flame could not be sustained. They decided to pump in a measured amount of oxygen to allow folks to go on breathing without hurting the integrity of the expeiment. A tanker truck of liquid oxygen was connected to one of the “lung” structures, restoring the atmosphere.

The plast is actually a campus of columbia university now but the original company name was Space Biospheres Ventures. The intention was to create and sell sustainable environment systems to NASA but alas that never came to pass. I finally got fed up with the place after Columbia came and left to get a real job.

We can, if we want. But stretching the water hose up there twice daily is a bitch.