For the first time, scientists have grown plants in soil from the moon collected by NASA’s Apollo astronauts.
The researchers had no idea if anything would grow in moondust and wanted to see if it could be used to grow food by the next generation of lunar explorers. The results stunned them.
“Holy cow. Plants are already growing in lunar stuff. Are you kidding me?” said Robert Ferrell of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Ferrell and his colleagues planted cress seeds on the moon Soil It was brought back by Neil Armstrong from Apollo 11, Buzz Aldrin, and other lunar celebrities. The good news: All the seeds have germinated.
The downside was that after the first week, the coarseness and other characteristics of the lunar soil put pressure on the small-flowered weeds to the point that they grew more slowly than seedlings grown in lunar soil fake from the ground. Most moon plants ended up stunted.
The results were published Thursday in Communication biology.
The longer the soil is punished cosmic radiation And solar wind On the moon, plants seemed to do worse. The Apollo 11 samples — which were exposed more than a billion years to the elements due to the surface of the older Sea of Tranquility — were the least suitable for growth, according to the scientists.
“This is a huge step forward for knowing that you can grow plants,” said Simon Gilroy, an aerospace plant biologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was not involved in the study. “The next real step is to go and do it on the moon.”
Lunar dust is littered with tiny glass shards from micrometeorite impacts that reached everywhere in the Apollo lunar landers and donned spacesuits for moonwalks.
One solution might be to use younger geological spots on the Moon, such as lava flow, for digging agricultural soil. The environment can also be modified, changing the nutrient mixture or modifying artificial lightingAnd
Only 842 pounds (382 kilograms) of moon rock and soil were returned by six Apollo crews. Some of the oldest moon dust has been sprinkled the plants Under quarantine with Apollo astronauts in Houston after returning from the moon.
Most of the moon’s bunker remained closed, forcing researchers to experiment with simulated soil made of volcanic ash on Earth. NASA finally distributed 12 grams to University of Florida researchers early last year, and the much-anticipated cultivation took place last May in a lab.
The ideal situation, the scientists said, is for future astronauts to take advantage of the endless supply of local dirt available for indoor farming in exchange for creating a hydroponic system or an entire water system.
“The fact that anything has grown means we have a really good starting point, and the question now is how we can improve and improve,” said Sharmila Bhattacharya, a NASA astrobiology program scientist.
Florida scientists hope to recycle their lunar soil later this year, planting more cress before moving on to other plants.
Anna Lisa Ball, Plants grown on the Apollo lunar regolith offer stress-related versions informing prospects for lunar exploration, Communication biology (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s42003-022-03334-8. www.nature.com/articles/s42003-022-03334-8
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