A small pot of soil, but a big step for space farming: Scientists have, for the first time, grown plants in a few grams of moon soil, which was reported decades ago by astronauts on the Apollo program.
This success hopes to one day be able to grow plants directly on the moon. This will save future explorers many and expensive loads on their rockets, as well as for long-distance travel. However, there is still a lot of work to be done before achieving this, show this work by University of Florida researchers published in the Thursday issue. Communication Biology. “This research is important for NASA’s long – term human research goals.”Bill Nelson, the boss of the US space agency, commented in a press release. “We need to use the resources on the Moon and Mars to create food resources for future astronauts living in deep space.”
12 g of lunar soil
During the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions, the researchers used just 12 grams of lunar soil (a few teaspoons) collected from different parts of the moon for their experiments. To sew, they put about a gram of soil (called regolith). Each time, add water to it, and then the seeds. A nutrient solution was added daily. The plant used is Arabidopsis taliana because it grows easily and, above all, it has already been studied in detail: its genetic code, as well as its hostile environment – even in space – is well known. The seeds were simultaneously planted in the soil from our own earth, and the lunar and Martian soil-reflecting specimens help make a comparison. Conclusion: Two days later, the seeds of the lunar specimens germinated.
And “All plants, whether in lunar soil or in control specimens, remained identical until the sixth day.”, The lead author of the study Anna-Lisa Paul explained in a statement. But then, the moon plants grow slowly and have stunted roots. After 20 days, the scientists harvested them and examined their DNA. They found that lunar plants responded in the same way if there was too much salt in a soil or to a hostile environment such as heavy metals. In the future, scientists will want to understand how this environment can be hospitable. NASA is preparing to return to the moon as part of the Artemis project, with the aim of establishing a lasting human existence there.
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