Scientists successfully grow plants in soil from the Moon

Fri, 13 May 2022 05:29:20 GMT
Space Daily

Washington (AFP) May 13, 2022 That's one small pot of soil, one giant leap for man's knowledge of...

That's one small pot of soil, one giant leap for man's knowledge of space agriculture: scientists have for the first time grown plants in lunar soil brought back by astronauts in the Apollo program.

The ground-breaking experiment, detailed in the journal Communications Biology on Thursday, has given researchers hope that it may be possible to one day grow plants directly on the Moon.

"We'll need to use resources found on the Moon and Mars to develop food sources for future astronauts living and operating in deep space."

For their experiment, the researchers used just 12 grams of lunar soil collected from various spots on the Moon during the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 missions.

In tiny thimble-sized pots, they placed about a gram of soil and added water, then the seeds.

The researchers chose to plant arabidopsis thaliana, a relative of mustard greens, because it grows easily and, most importantly, has been studied extensively.

As a control group, seeds were also planted in soil from Earth as well as samples imitating lunar and Martian soil.

"Every plant - whether in a lunar sample or in a control - looked the same up until about day six," Anna-Lisa Paul, lead author of the paper, said in a statement.

Differences started to appear: the plants in the lunar samples grew more slowly and had stunted roots.

The scientists harvested all the plants, and ran studies on their DNA. Their analysis showed that the lunar plants had reacted similarly to those grown in hostile environments, such as soil with too much salt, or heavy metals.