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The Plant the Moon Challenge is for anyone daring enough to explore and stretch the limits of human possibility. We’re piggybacking off of NASA’s new lunar exploration program, Artemis, and giving YOU the chance to help get astronauts back to the moon.

NASA’s Artemis Program is the United States’ new initiative to return to the Moon. And future missions to the Moon will prepare astronauts for manned exploration of Mars! Artemis will explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. However, returning humans to the Moon and planning to go to Mars is challenging in many ways. One of those challenges is how to feed your crew. Using local resources on the Moon could greatly enhance our capabilities to explore our celestial neighborhood.

This begs us to ask the question, can you plant the Moon? Can we plant Mars? Can you grow crops in lunar regolith, a fine grained dusty covering of rocks and minerals spread across the surface of the moon? Can we grow food sustainably on the surface of Mars? What nutrients, fertilizers, or other modifications to the regolith are needed to grow nutrient rich, sustainable food sources for future astronauts?

Understanding how we can use lunar soil to grow crops is one of the next great steps in supporting our return to the Moon! Through the Plant the Moon and Plant Mars Challenge, you can help NASA scientists and the academic community at large learn the best crop conditions to make this happen. Register today to get started!

Programs Of:



ICS makes learning an exciting challenge for students of all ages. For ICS, it’s not only about creating a tool for students, educators and innovators. It’s about creating academic heroes, and building the structures and systems upon which they can be recognized and rewarded. We aim to do for educational competitions what ESPN has done for professional sports, and much more. The Plant the Moon and Plant Mars Challenges are new signature competitions from ICS to help engage, inspire, and motivate students to learn through real-world challenge-based programming.


In Collaboration With:



Recognizing that science and human exploration are mutually enabling, NASA created the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) to address basic and applied scientific questions fundamental to understanding the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and the near space environments of these target bodies. As a virtual institute, SSERVI funds investigators at a broad range of domestic institutions, bringing them together along with international partners via virtual technology to enable new scientific efforts.

Space Grant Logos for website
Space Grant Logos for website

NASA Space Grant Regional Expansion Project

The Plant the Moon Challenge is partnering with six Space Grant Consortiums on a special NASA-funded regional project to expand the reach of the PTMC to underserved and underrepresented STEM students in the six partnering states: Virginia (lead), North CarolinaSouth CarolinaWest VirginiaFlorida, and Puerto Rico.

The NASA Space Grant Regional Expansion Project builds on the Plant the Moon Challenge by providing additional state/jurisdiction-based support to educators, free lunar regolith simulant kits, teacher stipends, enhancement activities, special experiential state/regional awards, and expanded educator professional development. The project is expected to engage more than 13,000 students in PTMC over the next three years. Informal and formal educators in the project region can learn more here.


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Tablet View (ALL)


The Space Grant Consortium are educational institutions in the United States that comprise a network of fifty-two consortia formed for the purpose of outer space-related research. Each consortium is based in one of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico, and each consists of multiple independent space-grant institutions, with one of the institutions acting as lead.

The Plant the Moon Challenge is currently supported by the Space Grant Consortiums of California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, & West Virginia.

If you do not see your state's Space Grant Consortium listed here, we encourage you to reach out to them expressing your interest in participating in the Plant the Moon Challenge.


Mosser Lee Company has been producing consumer products since 1932. Through its operating divisions, it provides high quality lawn and garden products under the Mosser Lee, Soil Master and LabTech brands through most of the garden centers and mass merchants in the United States and Canada.

Soil Master provides the pH meters for our teams to use in their experiments.


Science Advisory Board


Associate Professor of Biochemistry

NC State University


Associate Professor of Crop Science

Ferum College


Dean of School of Science

Hampton University

Mahsa Esfandabadi

Aerospace Architectural Engineer


Laura’s research has focused on the interactions of geology and microbiology and the implications for the geochemistry and transfer of nutrients in the environment. Especially when these interactions occur in extreme environments (including extraterrestrial). Extreme environments represent conditions where the limits of life can be better understood helping to understand development of life on Earth and the potential for life beyond Earth. She completed her B.S. in geology at the University of Kansas and her M.S. degree at the University of Georgia where she studied the interactions of microbial organisms, nitrogen and trace metals in hot springs of Kamchatka Russia.  She has focused her dissertation research on potential applications of microbiology in exploration of Mars, especially for agricultural purposes. She is also experienced in creating Martian regolith simulants and is using these to conduct multiple plant growth studies to help understand some of the limitations of growing extraterrestrial gardens and how microbial organisms may help bridge that gap.

Postdoctoral Fellow

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Ralph Fritsche is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Crop Production Project Manager.  He is leading the effort to develop sustainable and reliable fresh food systems in support of long duration space missions beyond low Earth orbit. Mr. Fritsche began his career with NASA in 1989.  He has supported the US Space Shuttle and Space Station Programs in various engineering and operational roles. Mr. Fritsche is also a recipient of the NASA Exceptional Service Medal.  In addition, he has also earned a dual BS degree in Physics and Space Science from theFlorida Institute of Technology in 1979.

Space Crop Production Manager

NASA Kennedy Space Center

Dr. Robert Heinse is an Associate Professor of Soil and Environmental Physics in the Soil and Water Systems Department at the University of Idaho.  His research interests revolve around water in the soil environment and the characterization using geophysical methods.  Dr. Heinse also entertains a keen interest in growing plants in space having previously conducted experiments on the vomit comet and being involved with experiments on the international space station.  He is a past director of the interdisciplinary water resources program.  Above all, however, he has a growing appreciation for the complexities of human and ecosystem interactions with the physical world.

Associate Professor of Soil

University of Idaho


Chief Scientist, CLASS Exolith Lab

University of Central Florida


Chief Innovation Officer



Chief Geomechanics Specialist

University of Central Florida

Rafael Loureiro

Assistant Professor of Botany

Winston-Salem State University


Staff Scientist

Lunar and Planetary Institute

Chris McKay

Senior Scientist

NASA Ames Research Center


Professor of Horticulture

University of Delaware

Joseph Minafra serves as Lead of Innovation and Technical Partnerships for the NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) at NASA Ames Research Center. Joe has an extremely diverse background that includes developing technical systems for collaborative research, meteoritic studies, biology, project management, software development including user interface design, scientific illustration, and even a few years as a professional chef. With his varied background, Joe has been responsible for a broad set of technical tasks for the NASA Ames Center Director as well as the Space and BioSciences Divisions. Currently, he oversees technology innovation to enable collaboration and communication between competitively selected science and research teams across not only the United States, but internationally as well. Joe has a long history of integrating government work with commercial enterprises and bringing that message to the public through the education and public outreach sectors.

Lead for Innovation & Technical Partnerships



Associate Dean of Research

MO University of Science & Technology

Chemical Ecology and Astrobiology are the shared themes of research in Dr. Palmer’s lab. Whether it is developing a plan for growing food on a future Mars Colony, or deciphering the chemical signals exchanged between algae and corals, his research lies squarely at the intersection of chemistry and biology. On-going research in Dr. Palmer’s lab evaluates the ability of current Martian regolith simulants to support plant growth, as well as developing new methods to improve their growth in these challenging substrates. In pursuit of that goal, his students are applying both biological as well as chemical approaches to make sustainable plant growth on the Red Planet a reality. His students are as likely to be found at a microscope, in the greenhouse, or in front of a mass spectrometer. Regolith work by Dr. Palmer’s students has received recognition in Science News and the Washington Post.
A Florida native, Dr. Palmer grew up in St. Augustine. He received a B.A. from Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) in Biochemistry, a PhD in Biomolecular Chemistry from Emory University (Atlanta, GA) and then did an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is currently the  Chair of the Marine Sciences Program in the Department of Ocean Engineering and Marine Sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology. Dr. Palmer is also affiliated with the Aldrin Space Institute and has been an active contributor to workshops on Sustainability in Space.

Associate Professor

Florida Institute of Technology


Assistant Professor of Engineering

University of Texas Tyler

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Questions? Contact: ptmc@competitionsciences.org