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Catalog – Tech-Science – Plants grown on the moon for the first time

The good news for space colonists is that scientists have shown that plants can also be grown in lunar soil. However, the bad news for those who dream of a green lunar salad table is that plants grown in lunar regolith do not bloom well and are generally sensitive based on experience.

In a new study published in Communications Biology, University of Florida researchers have grown plants for the first time in lunar regolith from NASA’s Apollo missions and compared their growth to those grown in volcanic ash on Earth.

Flowers planted in the soil of the moon are exhausting

The poor performance of the plants grown in the Apollo specimens presents a challenge to proponents of “in situ resource use”; This term means that astronauts produce water, oxygen, fuel, or in this case food, from resources in an extraterrestrial celestial body rather than packing it from home.

The researchers planted Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant known as goose grass, in lunar regolith samples brought to Earth by the Apollo-11, -12 and -17 missions, and in control soils based on volcanic ash.

Plants grown in lunar samples grew slower than plants grown in volcanic ash, were smaller, and showed more signs of ‘stress’, such as expression of pigmentation and stress-related genes.

While plants grown in volcanic ash developed more or less evenly, plants grown in the Apollo-11 sample performed worse than plants grown in the Apollo-12 and -17 samples, indicating a variety of samples. The Apollo-11 sample, for example, has been exposed to solar and cosmic radiation for the longest, and researchers have hypothesized that the lunar regolith may have become especially sensitive to biology as a result of the long-term energy bombardment.

In the Apollo program, researchers crushed lunar regolith, or lunar dust, on plants grown in Earth, so they were covered in moon dust and found that the plants were actually flowering compared to the control group. The experiments were primarily aimed at ensuring that lunar samples brought home by astronauts are free of unknown pathogens or toxins. The researchers said the extra nutrients were responsible for the plants’ growth, CNN writes.

Apollo astronauts planted moon trees

The seeds that the Apollo astronauts brought to the moon and brought back to Earth were then planted and many successfully evolved into “moon trees,” but the experiment focused on the viability of seeds taken into space, not seeds in the soil from the void.

In 2019, an experiment on a 4-acre spacecraft in Xiang, China, successfully germinated seeds on the moon, but it was done in a sealed container using terrestrial soil. According to the new study

Growing crops on the Moon wouldn’t be as easy as creating a compact greenhouse and sowing seeds.

Space agencies, NASA and the European Space Agency are currently looking at a number of different technologies to harness space resources so astronauts don’t have to take everything from Earth with them. For example, scientists at the European Space Agency are studying how to extract oxygen from a molten planet Moon, while in NASA’s Perseverance Orbiter on Mars, an experimental device has extracted oxygen from Mars’ thin atmosphere.

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NASA plans to return to the moon in 2025 as part of the space agency’s Artemis program, which aims to use the moon as a training ground before a Mars mission beginning in the early 1940s. Astronauts who spend weeks or months on the moon will have the opportunity to experiment with the use of resources at the site, including reshaping the lunar regolith to make it more suitable for plants. This will require a lot of experimentation, according to the authors of the current study.

Further analysis and improvement will be required before lunar regolith can be considered a routine on-site resource, especially in places where the regolith is very mature.

– Books in the study.

(Cover Photo: Isabella Bonoto/AFP)