An Arabidopsis plant grown in lunar soil for about two weeks.
An Arabidopsis plant grown in lunar soil for about two weeks.

Space Plants

Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS
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About This Episode

Can you actually grow potatoes on Mars? On this episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Paul Mecurio explore how to grow plants in space and whether we can farm on the Moon and Mars with University of Florida Space Plants Lab biologists Anna-Lisa Paul and Robert Ferl.

Do we have experience trying to grow things on moon soil? Learn about regolith and the moon dirt brought back by the Apollo missions. What is the difference between dirt and soil? What are the challenges of growing plants in non-living soil? Discover orbital plant research, microgravity, and what happens to biology when not protected by Earth’s magnetic field. How do plants respond to space at a molecular level? 

What types of plants are used for space plant research? Learn about Arabidopsis thaliana and its role in space plant research. What does it taste like? Discover the many ways to stress a plant out. Are different areas of the moon better for farming? We explore what makes good soil and what regolith might need to make growing plants more viable. 

How does zero gravity affect how plants grow? How do plants know which direction to grow? Do plants grow toward light or against gravity? Is it a bit of both? Will future astronauts have to be vegetarians? Would food taste better or worse grown on the moon? What about moon wine? You will learn about other possible space-grown food. Could human feces be used as fertilizer like on The Martian? All that, plus, in the space-horticulturalist sequel who would play Anna-Lisa and Robert?

Thanks to our Patrons Andrew Herron, Bhargava Kandada, Mark Roop, Martin Bonner, Pete Quist, and Estee Catti-Schmidt for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

About the prints that flank Neil in this video:
“Black Swan” & “White Swan” limited edition serigraph prints by Coast Salish artist Jane Kwatleematt Marston. For more information about this artist and her work, visit Inuit Gallery of Vancouver.

In This Episode

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