Spring 1993
Newsletter of LUNAX® - the Lunar National Agricultural Experiment Corporation (non-profit) EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: David A. Dunlop. HARVEST MOON Editor: Peter Kokh, 1630 N. 32nd Str., Milwaukee WI 53208. Phone (414) 342-0705.


by David A. Dunlop, Executive Director

The publication of the first Harvest Moon News-letter is an important milestone for the Lunar National Agri-cultural Experiment project (LUNAX). For those who have been interested in LUNAX or have tried the experiments this will be a means of getting updated information.

LUNAX started with an August 1990 conference held in Door Co. Wisconsin to develop science experiments to address some of the inter-disciplinary problems involving space-based agriculture such as energy supply and consump-tion, use of "local" resources in the lunar and Martian envi-ronment for soils, and the adaptive response of various plants to different environmental conditions.

The LUNAX I conference produced two experiments. The first controls lighting schedules to follow the twenty-eight day cycle of sunlight and darkness on the Moon's surface. The second uses lunar soil "simulant" material as a medium for plants experimenting with variations of organic additions.

The initial trials of the LUNAX Experiments were done at East High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin and the Lac Courte d'Oreille Community College in Hayward in the fall of 1990 and spring of 1991. Cybil Fisher a senior at East High submitted her experiments to the State FFA contest where she was a finalist in the national FFA. Cybil 's work then won the national FFA student recognition award in the fall of 1991.

In November a second revised edition of the initial experiments was produced with special appendices on plants, use of Lunar Soil Simulant materials, and a bibliography of sources on Lunar agriculture. Supplemental materials about the Lunar simulant material produced by the University of Minnesota Space Science Center and materials about Wisconsin Fast Plant materials and supplies from Carolina Biological were also included with second edition materials.

Presentations on these experiment tracks were made at the '91 and '92 conferences of the Wisconsin. Society of Science Teachers and at the '91 and '92 International Space Develop-ment Conferences in San Antonio and Washington.

In June '92 the FFA New Horizons magazine carried an article about Cybil Fisher receiving the national student recognition award with a short article about LUNAX. As a direct result of this exposure approximately 60 requests for information about these experiments were received from 37 states. Requests have come from from both science instructors and students at the elementary, high school and college levels.

This year additional presentations will be made at the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers spring conference on new experiments involving the use of lighting filters to show the effects of narrow spectrum lighting and altered lighting schedules on plant development and productivity. The use of inexpensive bucket biology chambers pioneered by the Wisc. Fast Plants program of the Department of Plant Pathology of the University of Wisconsin Madison is also described along with their outfitting with various temperature, humidity, lighting and timing systems for a controlled and monitored experimental plant growth conditions. Additional bibliographic resources and illustration will be part of this project.

A second LUNAX Conference is being scheduled for August 16-17th, 1993 in Door County, Wisconsin to develop additional experiments and educational resource materials. By the time of the conference we hope to have received feedback from students and teachers who have tried LUNAX experiments. The experience of those using the second edition will be used to improve materials in a third edition. Topics including lunar geology and lunar resource utilization, fermentation techniques and recy-cling biodigesters, and the application of varied soil mediums and hydroponic growth systems will be the focus for develop-ment of additional experiments and hardware applications. The response from around the country has demonstrated that space-based agriculture and biology is an area of interest to both teachers and students. We will continue to respond to that interest and the LUNAX project will expand its efforts to produce additional educational resources which introduce multi-disciplinary problems and techniques to the classroom. - DD

About the LUNAX Logo -- by Peter Kokh

The task of coming up with a Logo for the new Lunar National Agricultural Experiment Corporation fell to me - or rather I volunteered. Dave Dunlop had hit upon the acronym for our infant research outfit, the X signifying the experimental nature of LUNAX' work and mission.

Noting the similarity of a common symbol of agri-culture, cross-stacked wheat, to an X, I enlisted the help of graphics artist Fred Fleischman of Milwaukee who drew up the Logo as seen above. The stylized lunar background is from art by John Moreau of Dayton, Ohio, with permission. PK


$aving Money on Food in Space -- By Peter Kokh

[Reprinted from Moon Miners' Manifesto # 39 OCT '90]

$400/oz, or the price of gold these days, works out to $6400/lb. Given our negative progress in slashing the cost per pound of anything to orbit, much less from there all the way to a soft landing on the Moon, that figure would be a rather rosy estimate of freight-added costs alone of anything upported out of Earth's deep gravity well to early lunar outposts.

Everyone recognizes the importance of finding ways for early settlers to self-manufacture the more massive items they will need, out of whatever materials they can process from the moondust. But often I hear "Oh, we could afford to import this or that - it weighs hardly anything." Hey, just remember, it will cost more than its weight in gold!

Thus it's not surprising that it seems self-evident to most people that it will be an urgent priority for lunar outpost volunteers, and the settlers that someday will follow, to grow their own food - "it would cost too much to haul it up from Earth." This common wisdom is a bit simplistic nonetheless. Let's take a look at some very real virtual savings in food costs already realized even though we still do bring all food up from Earth - in one form or another.

• STEP ONE: Taking up just freeze dried food

Already we freeze-dry most foods destined for space, saving all the weight of the associated water. To rehydrate the food, we use water manufactured in space as a by-product of the orbiter chemical fuel cell energy system which runs on bottled hydrogen and oxygen brought up from Earth - but now, we are not also bringing up extra water just for food and drink.

A check of the labels on freeze-dried foods packed for campers at the local outfitters supply store will surprised you. Water accounts for as much as 65-80% of the weight of ready-to-eat meals. Now that's real savings!

• STEP TWO: Rehydrating with water 89% Lunar

When the first returnees establish our beachhead outpost on some "magnificently desolate" lunar plain, even before their prototype food-growing unit brings in its maiden harvest of vegetables, they can realize another 89% break-through in food and drink costs - as soon as they start using oxygen 'squeezed' from moon rocks [44% oxygen by weight) to make up that associated water of hydration. At this stage, we will be upporting only hydrogen and freeze dried foods.

• STEP THREE: Growing with nutrients 53% Lunar

When our first neat little 'agricule' starts yielding real fresh food we save the total cost of upporting freeze dried food, right? Not quite! All we save by the labor of raising our own up-home food supply is another 53% or what we can get our regolith-soil to supply. Typical composition of oven-dry bio-mass, from wheat, for example, is 48% oxygen, 2% calcium, 0.8% magnesium, 0.01% iron, all of which we can get from our make-do soil, plus some 2.7% Potassium, 0,8% sulfur, and 0,6% phosphorus of which we can get perhaps half from the regolith as is, and the rest of it by lunar-sourced additions. The rest must be upported from Earth: the 36% of food that is carbon, 6% hydrogen, and 3% nitrogen, along with a few Moon-scarce micro-nutrients.

Settlers will try to diminish this burden by recycling religiously waste biomass and anything else of organic content so as to withdraw from the productive biosphere as little exotic organic material as they can (i.e. no wood for furniture or other items, substituting wherever possible), and by engineering entry and exit systems to conserve nitrogen-rich air reserves.

• STEP FOUR: Reducing costs of exotic nutrients

How could we make inroads into this stubborn balance? This still onerous import burden will drive settlement policy. As much as 2/3rds of the transportation fuel cost can be saved by bringing in needed carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen as liquid methane and ammonia produced on Phobos or Deimos, moonlets of Mars. The capital costs of installing such a processing facility could easily be amortized as the lunar population grows. And profits realized at Mars could defray the costs of opening up that frontier - a doubly attractive strategy!

• STEP FIVE: Total Lunar sourcing

There is a way, however, that lunar settlements might become totally self-sufficient in food production - supplying all their carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen needs as gas scaven-ging by-products of Helium-3 mining operations supplying Earth's voracious energy appetite with the ideal fusion fuel. (See the piece on "Regolith" page 5) Of these, compared to lunar demand, the least abundant by far is nitrogen, which will be the limiting factor on settlement growth, mostly because of the high volumes needed as a buffer gas in air. Hopefully, profits from He-3 exports will allow the settlers to pay the import price of as much extra nitrogen as they would like.

• More than food and not just for local consumption

All of the foregoing is equally valid for the usually forgotten but vitally important byproducts of prospective lunar farming: fiber (cotton, linen, flax), oils, natural biodegradable dyestuffs, cosmetics, soaps, and other eco-friendly household preparations. Of these, fiber for clothing, toweling, bedding, and furnishings will likely receive the earliest priority.

Saving money on the Moon by defraying avoidable upports from Earth is only one part of the story. Lunar agricul-ture, even early on when all carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen must be imported, has the potential to earn badly needed export income for the settlement. Luna-grown food, simply for the cheaper lunar oxygen it embodies, can be delivered to low Earth orbit and other space locations at a decided price advan-tage over fresh food brought up from Earth. Ditto for fabrics and anything else incorporating lunar oxygen. Early production of oxygen is then the key to everything else, and all the fuss about lunar agriculture presupposes this development.

The space frontier economy will be a complex hierarchy of supplies and demands. There is great potential for agriculture-based diversification ahead - if we do our homework now! And that is what LUNAX is all about! -- PK

IN CONTEXT: Background Essays

by Peter Kokh

Living on the Moon

The Moon is quite airless, and being without an atmosphere, its surface is exposed to an incessant slow rain of micrometeorite dust (and sometimes larger, more dangerous tidbits), and lashed by the raw ultraviolet fury of the Sun, burned by constant cosmic rays, and subject to occasional onslaughts from solar flares - all things from which Earth's atmosphere helpfully shields us. Moon base per-sonnel and the settlers that will someday follow, can substitute for this familiar atmospheric umbrella one of moondust.

For this same never-ending bombardment has worked to pulverize the upper few yards of the Moon's surface into a fine sterile soil called regolith. By heaping up about 2 yards of this loose stuff over our pressurized lunar habitats, we can easily provide sufficient protection for personnel on short tours of duty of a few months or so. We would want to double this blanket for those planning on spending the rest of their lives there, starting families and raising children. Given the way this overburden of shielding will protect us, you might aptly think of it as a 'solid atmosphere'. Indeed if Earth's atmosphere were frozen out as a mixture of nitrogen and oxygen snow, it would blanket our planet a few feet deep in similar fashion!

Burrowing into the regolith blanket will have other benefits as well. Most people have heard that during the two week long lunar day, the temperature rises above the boiling point of water, and that during the equally long lunar night, temperatures plummet to more than 200° F below. But remember, there's no air. So what gets hot, what gets cold? Just the surface itself! And with the lunar soil as dessicated as it is, neither the heat nor the cold penetrates very far. Two yards down, the temperature is about -4° F all the time. This may seem cold, but activities inside the base or habitat will provide plenty of heat. Indeed we may have to use special radiators to get rid of some of it, for the cool but extremely dry soil will carry off any heat excess very slowly.

Recall that there is no air outside (outvac?, outlocks?) so the air within our sealed habitat areas will exert considerable pressure against the outer walls, floor, and ceiling - one reason to build with sphere, cylinder, or torus shapes instead of the box-based architecture we are familiar with. The more soil we pile up on top, the more we compensate for the outward pressure burden and reduce structural stresses and leaks.

So far, visiting the Moon has meant donning a space suit, except when safely tucked inside the pressurized visiting vehicle. But as we build permanent outposts and as they grow into settlements, each pressurized habitat, workshop, factory, recreation area, school, shopping area, and, yes, farm, will be interconnected with pressurized passageways also protected by several feet of loose lunar soil. Thus from above a lunar settle-ment will look like a maze of connected "molehills". Add an antenna here and there, of course.

The upshot is that for most people living on the Moon, putting on a space suit will be something one does only in a drill - like our fire drills. Ordinarily they will be able to go from one part of the settlement to any other in shirtsleeves. Only people involved in field work, those prospecting and doing construction and science chores that can't easily be performed from inside a comfortably pressurized vehicle, will need space suits.

But the people in this future lunar "Mole City" need not live like moles. Quite the contrary, there is no reason why they can't bring the glorious warmth of sunshine down underground with them, using fiber optics and or mirrored ductwork, zig-zagging to preserve shielding integrity against cosmic rays, these devices fed by Sun-tracking mirrors called heliostats out on the surface.

We will want to bring the Sun inside not only for the community farming areas, but even for domestic garden plots, friendly atrium-parks ablaze with sunlight and lush with greenery, and so on. The need to psychologically counteract the overbearing barrenness of the Moon will be a design considera-tion of top priority. Workers on the Moon for short tours of duty can put up with much. But those planning to stay the rest of their lives, will want spacious, airy, sunbright space.

Settlers can also enjoy picture-window views of the Moon's landscapes of "magnificent desolation" while still cozily "inlocks" by using pairs of angled mirrors.

In the summer of 1984, I was fortunate to visit just such a house. Wisconsin architect-builder George Keller (his last name is aptly German for "cellar") had built the ultimate Earth-shielded home, Terra Luxe, 30 miles NW of Milwaukee in the rolling Kettle Moraine area marking the edge of advance of the Wisconsin Ice Sheet thousands of years ago. Unlike most 'underground' homes of the period, it had no sun-exposed southern façade. Except for the north-facing garage door and adjacent entryway, the entire structure had an overburden of 8 ft. of soil. Yet inside, wow! I had never been in a house with so overwhelming a sense of the outdoors! The place was literally flooded with sunlight, thanks to a number of 2 ft. wide mirror-faceted shafts through the ceiling and soil above, each fed by a sun-catcher which turned to follow the Sun from dawn to dusk. And in each room, a large picture window which, thanks to a periscopic mirror setup, fooled you into thinking you were looking directly outdoors onto the beautiful countryside. PK

MOONTALK: Glossary Entries

regolith - reg' o lith: The loose surface material composed of rock fragments and soil, which everywhere overlies the consolidated, fractured, bedrock of the lunar crust to a usual depth of 2 to 5 meters. This blanket of "moondust" has been created by eons of bombardment of the surface by meteorites, a process which slowly pulverizes, and turns over or gardens, the surface deposits. Regolith contains considerable amounts of pure unoxidized iron fines and of glass spherules created by the heat of micrometeorite strikes. Regolith contains no organic matter, nor does it have any hydrated minerals such as clays. The particles, while comprised largely of the same elements abundant in Earth's crust, are relatively "immature" minerals "unweathered" by exposure to air or water.

On the other hand, heating the soil releases surprising amounts of gas: hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and helium and the other noble gasses. This is an endowment present only in the upper meter or so and therefore seems to be a non-native resource contributed by eons of buffeting of the surface by the tenuous but swift Solar Wind continuously blowing off the surface of the Sun. These gases trapped by adhesion to fine regolith particles and sometimes trapped in glassy hollows, may serve as the principal lunar-indigenous source of the afore-mentioned elements. "Gas Scavenging", practiced as a part of all construction, mining, and grading operations involving regolith-moving would provide a considerable harvest.

Potentially the most valuable such resource, even more so than the hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen needed for life, agriculture, and chemical processing, is the one part in 2300-2800 of the trapped helium that is one neutron shy. So-called helium-3 (vs. 4), if it could be harvested, would be the most desireable, most efficient, and cleanest burning "fusion" fuel, should we ever master the engineering obstacles to the construction of fusion power plants. Lunar Helium-3 is several hundreds of times more abundant than the amount to be found on Earth, and much more easily harvested. Estimates are that there is enough of this rare isotope lightly trapped in the lunar "topsoil" to power the entire Earth at U.S. consumption levels for thousands of years, all with the most benign of environ-mental impacts in comparison with alternative energy sources.

Regolith, since it is representative of the host crust from which it is derived, represents a "pre-mined" source of supply for metal and non-metal processing. Thus there will be no reason to either strip mine or tunnel mine on the Moon and mining operations are likely to make no noticeable changes in the lunar surface except from very close up - small craterlets of a few feet in diameter or smaller will be raked smooth.

Lunar regolith is of four general types. Most abundant are highland soils richer in aluminum, magnesium, and calcium. Mare-type soils, covering 17% of the Moon (the dark, relatively flat and lower lying areas) are richer in iron and titanium. All soils count oxygen and silicon as the number one and two most abundant elements. There are splashes of KREEP soils, rich in Potassium (and sodium), the Rare Earth Elements and Phosphorus. Finally, there should be regolith in crater central peak areas derived from matter upthrust from deeper mantle layers underlying the crust. -- PK

MOONBEAMS: Trivia Lunar IQ Items


The Moon is 2160 miles in diameter (3476 km) or 27.3%, a little more than a quarter, of the diameter of Earth. This gives it a surface area of 7.4 %, a mere thirteenth, that of Earth's. Nonetheless, its 14,600,000 square miles compares with the combined area of the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Australia. The side permanently facing Earth is about as large as the U.S. and Canada together.

17% of the total lunar surface is Mare (MAH ray), the prominent dark areas, the so-called lunar "seas" once actually liquid - with flowing lava! These maria together are about the size of the continental U.S. minus the Pacific coast states.

Seen from the surface of the Moon, the Earth looms 3 and 2/3 times as wide, blocking out more than thirteen times as much of the starry sky, and shining 60 times brighter. The lunar surface, bright as it seems, is actually rather dark and reflects much less light than the cloud and ice mottled Earth.

Weighing only 1/82nd as much as Earth, the Moon exerts a surface gravity only 1/6th as great as Earth-normal. As a result it has not been able to accumulate or hold on to any atmosphere and remains an airless desert.

While the Moon is significantly smaller than our home planet, except for distant Pluto, no other planet has as large a natural satellite in comparison to itself. Earth and Moon are thus often considered a two-planet system. The Moon is seen as an integral part of "Greater Earth", perched to serve mankind as the "8th", and in some ways the richest, "continent". An integrated Earth-Moon economy could solve many of the stubborn problems of resource depletion, energy shortage, and environmental degradation now clouding our future. The Moon ought to be considered as part of Earth's endowment - an as yet untapped "talent" that can help us realize the fuller potential of Earth and humanity together.

It needn't be there just "to cause tides and look pretty" any more! -- PK

GREEN CHEESE - 2¢ from the Editor -- by Peter Kokh

LUNAX: how it all began

NASA has been working hard on a refrigerator-sized unit in which astronauts aboard the Space Station or at a future lunar outpost can grow lettuce, tomatoes, and other salad stuffs to add a tasty morale-boosting fresh component to their every-day freeze-dried menus. This will do as far as present budget-constrained NASA plans can timidly see into the future.

But if the energy and environmental crises come to a head together and the only long range option involves the virtually inexhaustible clean energy available off planet, then someday thousands - perhaps many, many thousands - of people will be living and working on the Moon and elsewhere in space, all to help keep Earth green, clean, and employed! Whether these pioneers are involved in harvesting the Earth-rare, Moon-abundant isotope Helium-3 to fuel future ultra-clean Fusion plants here below, or turning moondust into building components for giant solar arrays to beam power back to Earth, feeding them will require a different approach.

Back in the winter of '88-89, eight of us in the Milwaukee chapter of the National Space Society put together an entry into that Society's Lunar Base Design Competition. We had to design an outpost that would support from one to five thousand people, the idea being to force us out of the mold of current ready-made sardine-can-habitat thinking. Our entry "Prinzton", named after the crater Prinz near which it was to be built, placed second and we are justly proud of it. But amidst all the brainstorming fun we came up against one very big challenge. On the Moon, the Sun is "up" for fourteen plus days at a time, then "down" for an equal span. To keep our generous farming acreage lit like a cornfield in Kansas in June with artificial lighting during "nightspan" would require seven times the power-generating capacity as all other power needs of the settlement combined including a hefty industrial operation.

It became clear to us that we had to identify which plant varieties could "get by" with as little nightspan lighting as possible - and yet go on to produce an eventual harvest. The economic feasibility of the settlement might well depend on this knowledge. Yet a survey of past and current research turned up almost nothing. Two experiments had shown that simple refrigeration, easy to arrange at minimal power cost during nightspan, would get the plants through even with no lighting at all, but with a doubling of seed to harvest time. How could we learn more and develop better options?

In the hopes of getting home hobby gardeners to do some simple experiments in their basements or garages where lighting could be controlled, we formed MiSST, Milwaukee Space Studies Team to promote our project. Interest was high - but no one turned in any results. Then Dave Dunlop hit upon the idea of selling our project to high school science teachers.

At a working conference with science teachers at the Chateau Hutter north of Sturgeon Bay, WI in August '90 the Lunar National Agricultural Experiment Corporation, LUNAX (non-profit) was born and the original "Lunar Nightspan Dark-Hardiness Experiment" was redesigned. See Guidelines Exp. 1. As Paul Harvey would say, "and now you know the rest of the story". -- PK

GREEN THUMB: Resources.

Minnesota Lunar SIMULANT - Where it comes from and what it is

By Peter Kokh

Immediately upon splashdown and recovery of the Apollo 11 command module, July 24th, 1968 the age of experimental lunar agriculture was begun. While Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins rested in the specially built Quarantine Chamber, scientists were experimenting with their precious booty of 114 lbs. of Moon dust and rocks, trying to see if seeds would germinate in the stuff, and if so, how the plants would develop. Their purpose, however, was not to lay the foundations for future settlement farming operations, but the much more immediate need to determine if lunar soil was in anyway toxic to Earth life. The verdict? Plants did germinate and grow in it and did not develop abnormally. Regolith was different, but not dreadfully alien.

Every since that beginning, however, it has been all but impossible to get enough moondust out of Houston to do more than study microbiology. As the Apollo Age closed prematurely, the last three planned missions scuttled, NASA began hoarding its loot as if it had to last us forever, i.e. in the prudent expectation that we might never go back for more. The usual amount of moondust doled out to the experimenter who has successfully jumped through all the hoops is 1 itsy gram.

It therefore became paramount to find an Earth-source of a suitable simulant. Lunar rock and soil is largely basaltic and basalts are easy enough to find on Earth. Perhaps the most salient difference is that lunar basalts are often titanium-rich, definitely not the case here. Enter Dr. Paul W. Weiblen. A geologist at the University of Minnesota, he was among early scientists to examine material returned by Apollo 11. He was struck by the chemical similarity of the "Contingency Sample 11084" to a billion-year old basalt outcrop along the north shore of Lake Superior. This zone, running through Duluth and known as the Mid-Continent Rift, happened to be the sole known source of Ti-rich basalt.


(image awaiting scanner)

On the plus side, the loot from Duluth is both homogeneous and accessible. The well-defined geologic setting means successive samples can be related to each other to provide a standardized research material with known characteristics, to serve various avenues of experimentation.

There it stood until 1985, when William Easterwood, then a postdoctoral student working at Disney's EPCOT Center in Florida, approached NASA for simulated Lunar soil for a set of experiments to see if soybeans and wheat would grow on the Moon. NASA suggested contacting Weiblen. A phone call from EPCOT's director followed, leading to the first mining of a ton of Duluth basalt.

Available at down-to-Earth prices in small to large quantities, Minnesota Lunar Simulant has been a boon not only to agricultural researchers but to those designing mining equipment, formulating "lunar" concrete, and toying with new glass-glass composites as a possible building and structural material that can be manufactured in a small lunar outpost.

In a future article, we'll discuss the potentially salient differences of Minnesota Lunar Simulant from the real thing and the implications for LUNAX experimenters. -- PK

Minnesota Lunar SIMULANT - Its cost and use in experimental agriculture

By David A. Dunlop

Minnesota Lunar Simulant can be ordered from Dr. Paul W. Weiblen, the Director of the Space Science Center, 103 Shepherd Laboratories, 100 Union St., U. of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. 55455.

I visited the UM Space Science Center to discuss the pricing structure of the simulant. I liter of simulant material (should easily fill a 6" pot) would cost approximately $ 75.00.

Lunar soil simulant is comprised of two components. First is basalt - rock from th Duluth, Minnesota area which is ground into soil particles 1 mm and smaller. The price per gram for this material is $ 0.001. The second component is glass particles which are made by passing the ground basalt particles through a high temperature (6,000°F) plasma furnace. This simulates the formation of glassy components in the lunar regolith which are formed by the high energy impact of meteorites on the lunar surface. The cost per gram of this glassy material is $ 0.10, just one hundred times the price of the unprocessed ground rock.

While there is at present no agreed standard recipe for lunar soil simulant, a ratio of 3 parts of ground rock to 1 part glassy material is what I have discussed with Dr. Weiblen. Actual lunar regolith samples vary from 10% to 30% in glass content, so a 25% value would seem to be reasonable. Recal-culated on this basis, 1 liter of lunar soil simulant weighing 2.7 kilos or 2700 grams of which 1/4th or 675 g is glassy material at $.10 (= $67.50) and 3/4ths or 2,025 g is ground basalt at $.001 (= $2.02) yields a total value of $69.52. Add packaging and shipping costs and you get the $75 figure.

Dr. Weiblen will bill you for the cost of the simulant material ordered. The above calculations will help the experimenter estimate the price of the volume of material ordered.

William Easterwood PhD, formerly of the University of Florida at Gainesville and EPCOT Center, suggests the following rates of application of nutrients per kilogram of soil for initial cropping of Minnesota Lunar Simulant:

150 mg Nitrogen, N

13 mg Manganese, Mn

75 mg Phosphorus, P

10 mg Zinc, Zn

75 mg Potassium, K (use sulfate)

1 mg Boron, B


[Easterwood: these rates are based on nutrient addition and not compound addition. These applications, along with simulant dissolution should provide initial adequate nutrition when experimenting with Wisconsin Fast Plants. Keep the same lighting, etc. as when using standard soil media.] -- DD

[Editor. Of these, it will be hardest to find lunar sources for Zn and B. Some other additions may have to be imported from Earth as well, at least until lunar sources can be developed.]



Ed. D.W. Ming and D.L. Henninger, American Society of Agronomy, Inc., 1989

677 S. Segoe Rd, Madison, WI. 53711. ISBN #0-89118-100-8

Reviewed by David A. Dunlop

This excellent book provides a wonderful review of lunar agriculture issues including sections on:

• Lunar Base Scenarios

• Chemical and Practical Considerations for a Lunar-derived Soil

• The Lunar Environment

• Biological Considerations for a Lunar-Derived Soil

• Future Research Areas

• Controlled Biological Life Support Systems Current Research


The treatment of lunar regolith soils is especially informative to experimenters who wish to get involved with LUNAX' Soil Evolution Experiment. See Guidelines Exp 2. (In this "continuing" experiment we start with an initial crop in "virgin" lunar simulant and then follow up with successive plantings of other species and varieties in soil altered by the previous planting(s). Our goal is to find the best succession of plant varieties, and methods of enriching the original "raw and immature" soil with initial microbial inoculants and subsequent admixing of waste biomass compost derived from prior plantings.)

The articles in these sections have extensive bibliographies which will permit further detailed background study. The cost of this volume is approximately $ 25.00. -- DD

"Bottle" and "Bucket" Biology

Inexpensive Plant Growth Chambers From Recycled Materials

By David A. Dunlop

Bottle and Bucket Biology are terms used to describe the use of 2 liter plastic soda bottles and 5 gallon plastic buckets as plant growth chambers. Clear plastic soda bottles can be easily cut and taped together to make a variety of different kinds of closed ecological systems. These constructions were pioneered by the Wisconsin Fast Plants Program, a National Science Foundation funded project of the Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, initiated by Professor Paul Williams.

For illustrated instructions on how to make these chambers, address a request for a copy of Wisconsin Fast Plant Notes Volume. No 2 Spring 1991


Fast Plants/Bottle Biology

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dept. of Plant Pathology

1630 Linden Drive

Madison, Wisconsin 53706


The bottle biology constructions are fun to build. And they can be used in the LUNAX experiments as simple plant containers.

The biology bucket makes a simple plant growth chamber. When outfitted with lights, a timer, thermometer and humidity, and placed in a refrigerator, it can be an inexpensive controlled and monitored environmental chamber. A word of caution is in order to make sure that the bucket is well ventilated. Otherwise a temperature of 100 degrees F can easily slowly build up from the heat thrown off by the fluorescent light. This is much too hot for the fast plants which need a temperature range of 60-70 degrees F.

The Wisconsin Fast Plants seeds (Brassica Rapida), program supplies, and manual can be ordered from the Carolina Biological Supply Company 2700 York Road, Burlington, NC 27215.

The LUNAX Experiment Guidelines packet (2nd Edition 1991) includes an illustrated sheet showing the various Wisconsin Fast Plant materials that one can order from Carolina Biologicals. These materials are reasonably priced.

The brief growth cycle of the Brassica Rapida plant - approximately 39 days - makes them ideal for use in the classroom. The plants are small and their quad-pack containers take up only a little space by a window or in a bucket biology chamber. The Fast Plants manual comes in two editions, one for the primary grades, and one for secondary. These manuals are well written and nicely illustrated and give clear instructions for working with the Brassica Rapida plants and associated supplies and equipment. These procedures used with LUNAX' "Nightspan Dark Hardiness Experiment" (see Guidelines Exp. 1) constitute a standardized method for working with the plants in order to measure the changing variable of the photoperiod. While we do encourage experimenters to try a wide variety of plants in this experiment track, a good beginning is the Fast Plant program with its low cost and clear instruction manual. -- DD

Return to Lunar Agriculture Experiment

Go to Mi.S.S.T. Guidelines for Experiments on Lunar Agriculture

Go to Harvest Moon # 2 Spring '94

Go to the Nightspan Dark Hardiness Experiment Guidelines (not online)

Go to the Soil Evolution Experiment Guidelines (not online)

Write David A. Dunlop

Write Peter Kokh

Subject-Related Articles in Moon Miners' Manifesto are listed at the bottom of this page