BGU | The Sky is No Limit

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is playing a key role in an international experiment known as Aleph-1, whose purpose is to test the feasibility of growing plants on the moon. An international group of researchers in the fields of plant biology and imaging were enlisted for the experiment, and Prof. Simon Barak of the French Associates Institute for Agriculture and Biotechnology of Drylands at the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research was entrusted with its coordinating. The experiment is led by Lunaria One, an international non-profit consortium of research institutions and public bodies dedicated to proving the feasibility of growing food on the moon. As a joint initiative for the common good, the project involves the combined effort of many organizations around the world, including BGU and leading universities in Australia, Great Britain, South Africa, and Cyprus. BGU’s contribution to the endeavor will be transported to the moon on the Beresheet-2 spacecraft. The mission is planned for 2025, and as part of the experiment, a small, hermetically sealed chamber will

be flown with SpaceIL’s Beresheet-2 spacecraft, carrying seeds and plants capable of surviving stress conditions while they are dormant and dry and able to "wake up" again when watered. The specific types of plants will be selected carefully based on their ability to grow quickly and survive in extreme temperatures. After landing on the moon, the plants’ growth will be monitored from Earth for 72 hours. The challenges of this lunar experiment are significant. The journey through space to the moon will entail extreme temperature changes and once they arrive, the seeds will require a supply of water to germinate. "The chosen experiment has enormous value both for our life here on Earth and for humanity's progress in space exploration," says Shimon Sarid, CEO of SpaceIL. According to Sarid, studying plant growth under extreme conditions can help us respond in the future to issues of food security as the Earth’s climate changes. As for space exploration, “growing plants will help humanity in long-term missions. We are thrilled to be cooperating with Lunaria One."

Prof. Simon Barak, coordinator of Lunaria One’s biological team added: "Earth and its resources are finite. Humanity's future existence depends on reaching the stars." Alongside Prof. Barak, two colleagues from the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research – Prof. Aaron Fait and Dr. Tarin Paz-Kagan – as well as three scientists from Australia and one from South Africa, are members of the research group. What is unique about this experiment is that in addition to this group of experts, the Aleph-1 team will invite citizen scientists and children from around the world to offer solutions to the challenges that arise in this project. In the shorter term, Lunaria One is working with various partners focusing on urban agriculture, as well as the cultivation of food and its transportation to difficult to reach locations (for example, providing emergency supplies to areas affected by natural disasters), so that Earth and its inhabitants also stand to benefit from this lunar mission in the meantime.

BGU’s Prof. Simon Barak is coordinating the international Alpha-1 experiment.


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