Scientists have grown plants in the soil of the moon

A small pot of soil, but a big step forward for space agriculture: Scientists have grown plants for the first time in a few grams of lunar soil, as reported by Apollo program astronauts decades ago.

With this breakthrough it is hoped that one day it may be possible to grow plants directly on the Moon. This would save future explorers from having to carry many more expensive loads aboard their rockets for longer missions.

Much work remains to be done, however, before this can be achieved, the work by University of Florida researchers published Thursday in the journal Communications Biology.

“This research is critical to NASA’s long-term human exploration goals,” NASA chief Bill Nelson said in a statement. “We will need to use resources on the Moon and Mars to develop a food source for future astronauts living in deep space.”

For their experiment, the researchers used only 12 grams of lunar soil (a few teaspoons) collected from various locations on the Moon during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions.

In small pots the size of a thimble, they placed about a gram of soil (called regolith) each time, added water, and then seeds. A nutrient solution was also added daily.

The plant used was Arabidopsis thaliana, chosen because it grows easily and above all because it has already been studied a lot: its genetic code, as well as the way it behaves in hostile environments. is — even in space — known.

The seeds were simultaneously planted in soil from our own Earth, and samples mimicking lunar and Martian soils to serve as comparisons.

See also  Astronaut Thomas Pesquet publishes photographs of Toulouse taken from the International Space Station

Result: Two days later the seeds of the lunar samples germinated.

And “all plants, whether in lunar soil or control samples, looked the same by the sixth day,” study lead author Anna-Lisa Paul said in a statement.

But later, the moon plants were found to be slow growing and their roots were dry.

After 20 days, scientists harvested them and studied their DNA. They found that lunar plants responded in the same way to hostile environments, such as when the soil contained a lot of salt, or heavy metals.

In the future, scientists want to understand how this environment can be made more hospitable.

NASA is preparing to return to the Moon as part of the Artemis program, which aims to establish a permanent human presence there.

You May Also Like

About the Author: Tad Fisher

Prone to fits of apathy. Music specialist. Extreme food enthusiast. Amateur problem solver.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.