St. Margaret’s Students Take On Scientific Challenge to Grow Food Away From Earth

Students around the world have been challenged to help NASA as they plan future missions to outer space. In particular, solving the unique problem of feeding crewmembers when they are away from Earth for long periods of time.
A team of St. Margaret’s Middle School students were up for the “Plant the Moon Challenge.” During their lunch break, the students spent time designing and testing the possibility of plant growth on the Moon using a simulated lunar regolith, a fine-grained dusty covering of rocks and minerals spread across the surface of the moon.
Dubbed “Project Stellar,” the team of 10 students—who were supervised by science teacher Eric Harrington—set up their lab in the Middle School science classrooms’ chemical fume hood, where they used grow lights, automatic sprinklers and had cameras set up for constant monitoring. They tried several different types of variables, from the nutrients of soil mixed in with the provided lunar regolith, to watering amounts and even different types vegetable seeds. Their results were enlightening, which they shared in a 5-minute video presentation which included a time-lapse video of their vegetables’ growth.
The students had successful growth in three pots – two of them planted with radish seeds and one with kale, all with a 50-50 mixture of soil and regolith. They also came up with an idea to offer a climate-controlled space for crew members on the Moon to grow their own food no matter the conditions on the Lunar surface.
The Middle School students’ work was similar to the Upper School science club, which earlier this year took on a similar “Plant Mars Challenge.” The club, sponsored by Upper School science teacher Andrea Chou, used simulated Martian regolith to conduct experiments and better understand how scientists can safely conduct manned missions within the solar system, with all the unique challenges it entails.
The Plant the Moon Challenge is a program of the Institute of Competition Sciences, in collaboration with the University of Central Florida’s CLASS Exolith Laboratory and NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute.
An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County, California
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St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
31641 La Novia Avenue
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
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