Australian Scientists Partner with NASA for Groundbreaking Lunar Plant Growth Mission

A team of Australian scientists will help NASA grow plants on the moon on the Artemis III mission.

A core team of scientists from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plants for Space (P4S) is assisting NASA with the critical research needed to grow plants in space.

The project, named the Lunar Effects on Agriculture Flora (LEAF), will collect plant growth data to help scientists understand how plants can support life on the moon and beyond.

“This research will be a pivotal step toward understanding how we might use agriculture in space to support human crews, paving the way for sustained lunar exploration and even missions to Mars,” Project Lead and Space Lab Vice President Christine Escobar said.

Space Lab Technologies IS leading the project, with several Australian teams involved, including scientists from the University of Adelaide, La Trobe University and the University of Western Australia.

The NASA Kennedy Space Center, the United States Department of Agriculture, the University of Colorado Boulder, and Purdue University are also involved in the project.

The goal of the mission is to grow plants on the moon and bring them back to Earth for the first-ever Lunar-grown crops.

P4S scientist and Professor at the La Trobe Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and Food, Mathew Lewsey, said the work of Australian scientists would be critical to the mission’s success.

“The seeds we send to the Moon will germinate in an enclosed capsule, which we will be monitoring through a remote camera,” Lewsey said.

“Our team of scientists will collect data on the plants as they grow on the moon, monitoring their size and morphology, then conduct genetic and metabolic analyses of individual cells when the plants return to Earth.

“We can then apply this knowledge to improve plant resilience to radiation and other environmental challenges.”

The project is slated for 2026, when the Artemis III mission is expected to take off.