NEWS

Iowa youth experiment with growing crops on the moon

Iowa State University Extension
Young scientists at Van Allen Elementary School.

Thanks to collaboration between the Iowa Space Grant Consortium, Iowa 4-H and the Iowa State University Integrated Pest Management Program, Iowa youth will participate in a global research effort to grow crops on the moon.

The 2022-23 Plant the Moon and Plant Mars Challenge begins this spring. It’s a global science experiment and learning activity with a project-based challenge: Who can grow the best crops using lunar or Martian regolith simulants?

The challenge is a program of the Institute of Competition Sciences in partnership with the University of Central Florida CLASS Exolith Laboratory and NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute. According to the Institute of Competition Sciences, the challenge is designed in support of NASA’s Artemis Program. It connects space science and planetary research with down-to-Earth concepts to introduce students to genuine, rigorous academic research.

Youth experiments growing plants in simulated moon soil at Van Allen Elementary School in Chariton.

This spring, Iowa 4-H will be supporting 15 youth teams through funding from the Iowa Space Grant Consortium and the ISU Integrated Pest Management Program. Teams will receive simulated moon soil and other materials to conduct plant growth experiments. Youth will partner with a current research scientist to design and execute their experiments. Iowa State University graduate students in different plant science fields will communicate virtually with the teams they mentor to provide guidance throughout the program.

The program kicks off in January, with experiments being conducted February through April. Teams must prepare and submit a report for NASA scientists by the end of April, and a closing symposium and awards ceremony is held in May.

“This is a great opportunity for youth to participate in citizen science with a global leader in science and technology like NASA. They can contribute to NASA’s mission and learn about both plants and space. If anything can make plant science cool, it’s growing plants in space,” said Maya Hayslett, crop science youth education specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach.

For more information about Plant the Moon, visit https://plantthemoon.com/. Contact Sara Nelson, sdnelson@iastate.edu, with questions about the Iowa program. To register a team, go to https://go.iastate.edu/4VE7CR