In a revolutionary research, scientists have grown plants for the first time in moon soil brought back by Apollo astronauts. It is a big leap in the area of space sciences and research as it opens a new arena of possibilities in the Space.
Researchers believe that one day, thanks to the innovative experiment published in the journal Communications Biology on Thursday, they will be able to cultivate plants directly on the Moon. Future space missions would gain from the time and money savings, as well as the ability to fly longer and farther.
The authors of the study from the University of Florida, on the other hand, believe there is still much to learn about the subject and want to cover every angle. For their experiment, the scientists utilized only 12 grams (a few teaspoons) of lunar dirt collected from various areas on the Moon during the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 missions.
In small thimble-sized pots, they place around a gram of dirt (called “regolith”), water, and the seeds. They also gave the plants a fertilizer solution every day.
Because it grows quickly and has been extensively studied, the researchers chose Arabidopsis thaliana, a mustard greens relative, to plant. It has a well-known genetic code and reacts to dangerous environments, like as space.
As a control group, seeds were planted in Earth soil as well as samples that approximated lunar and Martian soil. After two days, everything, even the lunar samples, sprouted.
“Up until roughly day six, every plant — whether in a lunar sample or a control — looked the same,” Anna-Lisa Paul, the paper’s principal author, said in a release.
After that, however, differences emerged: the plants in the moon soil samples grew slower and had stunted roots. After 20 days, the scientists collected all of the plants and examined their DNA. According to their investigation, the lunar plants reacted similarly to those generated in harsh environments, such as soil with too much salt or heavy metals.
Scientists want to know how they can improve this environment in the future. NASA plans to return to the Moon as part of the Artemis mission, with the long-term goal of establishing a permanent human presence on its surface.