A group of researchers from the University of Florida grew plants in lunar soil samples The Apollo missions were collected from 1969-1972. The experiment is unprecedented, and the results will be presented in a study published in the scientific journal Communications Biology on Thursday.
Only 12 grams of lunar regolite was used in the study, and each thimble-sized pot received only one gram. The researchers added nutrients and water before sowing the seeds.
“The plants helped ensure that the soil samples imported from the Moon were free of pathogens or other unknown components harmful to terrestrial life.”explains co-author Anna-Lisa Paul of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida.
Nevertheless, he points out that “these plants were only brought into contact with the regalite of the moon and were never cultivated on the moon.”
Plants of the Arabidopsis thaliana family germinated and grew normally during the first two days in the lunar regolith, although the team admits that development was “slow” and revealed “severe stress morphologies” after the sixth day of the experiment.
Nevertheless, this is an important leap before a step can be taken to install a human base on the Moon. “For future longer space missions, we can use the Moon as a base or launch pad”emphasizes researcher Rob Ferl quoted in his statement.
“This research is critical to NASA’s long-term space exploration goals because we need to use the resources found on the Moon and Mars to develop food sources for future astronauts living or working in space.”emphasizes Bill Nelson, director of the U.S. Space Agency.
- Text: Expresso, POSTAL’s partner magazine