While everyone else is interested in harvesting the Moon's scrumptious supply of Helium-3 to solve all our energy needs, NASA's pursing the answer to a more pressing question -- can we grow plants there? Come 2015, after it's sent a bunch of self-contained enclosures full of green stuff into the sky, the organisation should have the information it needs to put the issue to bed.
The project is the product of NASA's Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team, according to a Forbes story published last week. The idea is to grow several types of plants, including sunflowers and turnips, inside "coffee-can-sized aluminium cylinders" and see how they deal with the Moon's unique characteristics.
Along with the plants will be all manner of gizmos to monitor the vegetation back here on Earth (there's even a cute name for them: "Mooncasts").
The article mentions that such a project would have been quite expensive back in the day, estimating a cost of $US300 million. However, thanks to Google's Lunar X Prize, this has been brought down to a manageable $US2 million.
I guess we should start taking bets now as to which plants survive. Personally, I wouldn't mind finding out what a space turnip tastes like.