Scientists grow plants in lunar soil

Sat, 14 May 2022 06:51:05 GMT
Space Daily

Gainsville FL (SPX) May 13, 2022 In the early days of the space age, the Apollo astronauts took...

Fifty years later, at the dawn of the Artemis era and the next astronaut return to the Moon, three of those samples have been used to successfully grow plants.

"We first asked the question of whether plants can grow in regolith. And second, how might that one day help humans have an extended stay on the Moon.".

They were not as robust as plants grown in Earth soil, or even as those in the control group grown in a lunar simulant made from volcanic ash, but they did indeed grow.

By studying how the plants responded in the lunar samples, the team hopes to go on to answer the second question as well, paving the way for future astronauts to someday grow more nutrient-rich plants on the Moon and thrive in deep space.

"What's more, growing plants is the kind of thing we'll study when we go. So, these studies on the ground lay the path to expand that research by the next humans on the Moon.".

After day six it was clear that the plants were not as robust as the control group plants growing in volcanic ash, and the plants were growing differently depending on which type of sample they were in.

Just before the plants started to flower, the team harvested the plants, ground them up, and studied the RNA. In a biological system, genes are decoded in multiple steps.

Sequencing the RNA revealed the patterns of genes that were expressed, which showed that the plants were indeed under stress and had reacted the way researchers have seen Arabidopsis respond to growth in other harsh environments, such as when soil has too much salt or heavy metals.

Can understanding which genes plants need to adjust to growing in regolith help us understand how to reduce the stressful nature of lunar soil?

Are materials from different areas of the Moon more conducive to growing plants than others? Could studying lunar regolith help us understand more about the Mars regolith and potentially growing plants in that material as well? All of these are questions that the team hopes to study next, in support of the future astronauts traveling to the Moon.

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