Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Bruce Dorminey writes that the nearside of the Moon will never resemble your Granddad’s back forty, but agriculture remains the key to living and working off-world and nuclear-powered state of the art LED technology is what will drive photosynthesis so necessary to provide both food and oxygen for future lunar colonists. Future long-term lunar residents will need to grow their food either in sub-lunar lava tubes or in greenhouses shielded with several meters of lunar surface regolith because the moon is regularly exposed to lethal doses of cosmic rays, solar coronal mass ejections and x-flares, "not to mention micro-meteorites that would be enough to wreck anyone’s corn." Cary Mitchell, a plant biologist at Purdue University, says that as lunar light sources, LEDs, powered by Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTG), not unlike the one powering the current Mars Science lab, would be cool, solid state and robust; lasting 50,000 hours at least, or some five times longer than conventional horticultural light sources. Mitchell and Gioia Massa have tested several cultivars of strawberries and found one variety, named Seascape, which seems to meet the requirements for becoming a space crop. "We're trying to think of the whole system — growing food, preparing it and getting rid of the waste," says Massa. "Strawberries are easy to prepare and there's little waste." LEDs will also allow growers to tailor their light spectrum to manipulate and maximize certain plant attributes, thereby increasing a plant’s given nutraceutical content. “For us, it’s not just sticking a plant under an LED,” says Kevin Folta, a horticulturalist at the University of Florida who conducts research in off-world farming. “It’s telling the plant how to grow by controlling the quantities and colors of lights we deliver. That’s a huge advantage in a lunar setting where you want lots of leaves on your lettuce.”"
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