Great Leap Forward, Scientists Grow Plants in Lunar Soil Space News

Scientists planted the first seeds in lunar soil collected by NASA’s Moonwalkers long ago, promising to use Earth plants to support human outposts on other planets.

Researchers in the United States said Thursday that the seeds of a small flowering herbaceous plant, Arabidopsis thaliana – a kind of cress – were sown in 12 thimble-size containers, each containing a small piece obtained during the 1969 Apollo mission. Sample, and 1972.

Lunar soil, also known as lunar regolith, does not contain sharp grains and organic matter and is very different from terrestrial soils.

Therefore it is not known whether the seeds germinate. However, after two days, they germinate and grow.

For comparative study, seeds planted in volcanic ash from Earth (left) grow faster than seeds from lunar soil (right). [Tyler Jones/UF/IFAS via AP]

“When we first saw the mung bean sprouts that cover all specimens, we were amazed,” said Anna-Lisa Paul, director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research and professor of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida. Research published in the Journal of Communication Biology.

“Plants grow in lunar regolith. This simple statement is huge, and it opens the door to future exploration using resources on the Moon and possibly Mars, “she said.

NASA is constantly monitoring the existence of humans on the moon

With the long-term goal of establishing a permanent human existence on the lunar surface, NASA is preparing to return to the moon as part of the Artemis program.

“This research is critical to NASA’s long – term human exploration goals,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “We need to use the resources on the Moon and Mars to develop food resources for future astronauts to live and work in deep space.”

This research is an example of how NASA works to unlock agricultural innovations that help us understand how plants cope with stressful situations in areas of food scarcity on the planet.

During the Apollo 11 mission, astronaut Buzz Aldrin appeared on the moon
Decades after humans first set foot on Earth’s only natural satellite in 1969, NASA is preparing to return to the moon as part of the Artemis program. [Neil Armstrong/NASA/Handout via Reuters]

First, the seeds sown in regolith, mostly composed of broken basalt rocks, did not differ significantly in the early stages of evolution from seeds of similar mineral composition and particle size from other land volcanic ash used for comparative study.

But opposite plants have shown differences over time. Grown in lunar soils they grow slowly, are usually small, have few roots and are likely to exhibit stress-related symptoms such as small leaves and deep reddish-black color necessary for healthy growth.

Plants respond to salt, metals and oxidation so they have also shown genetic activity that indicates stress.

“Even though plants can grow in regolith, they need to work harder on metabolism,” says Paul.

But the researchers stressed that their growth was amazing and hoped that the results would one day make it possible to grow plants directly on the moon, saving money and facilitating long-distance space travel in the future.

Lunar clay plant found in a bottle at the University of Florida
This study gives hope that plants on Earth will be used to support future human outposts in space [Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS/Handout via Reuters]

Rob Fair, assistant vice chancellor, researcher and co-research leader at the University of Florida, said: “It’s exciting to see work that has never been done before in life.

“It’s an achievement to see plants grow, because it shows that we can go to the moon to use plants to grow food, clean the air and recycle water, just as we used plants on earth.

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