HomeAstronomy & SpaceScientists grow plants in lunar dirt

Scientists grow plants in lunar dirt

Scientists have grown plants in soil from the moon collected by NASA’s Apollo astronauts.Researchers had no idea if anything would sprout in the harsh moon dirt and wanted to see if it could be used to grow food by the next generation of lunar explorers. The results stunned them.

Ferl and his colleagues planted thale cress in moon soil returned by Apollo 11′s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. The good news is all of the seeds sprouted.The downside was that after the first week. The coarseness and other properties of the lunar soil stressed the small. It flowered weeds so much that they grew more slowly than seedlings planted in fake moon dirt from Earth. Most of the moon plants ended up stunted.

Results were published in Communications Biology.The longer the soil was exposed to punishing cosmic radiation and solar wind on the moon. The worse the plants seemed to do. The Apollo 11 samples are exposed a couple billion years longer to the elements because of the Sea of Tranquility’s older surface. They were the least conducive for growth.

Moon dirt is full of tiny and glass fragments from micrometeorite impacts that got everywhere in the Apollo lunar landers and wore down the moonwalkers’ spacesuits.One solution might be to use younger geologic spots on the moon. The environment also could be tweaked. Only 842 pounds (382 kilograms) of moon rocks and soil were brought back by six Apollo crews. Some of the earliest moon dust was sprinkled on plants under quarantine with the Apollo astronauts in Houston after returning from the moon.

Most of the lunar stash remained locked away. It forced researchers to experiment with simulated soil made of volcanic ash on Earth. NASA finally doled out 12 grams to the University of Florida researchers early last year and the long-awaited planting took place last May in a lab.

NASA said the timing for such an experiment was finally right with the space agency looking to put astronauts back on the moon in a few years. The ideal situation would be for future astronauts to tap into the endless supply of available local dirt for indoor planting versus setting up a hydroponic system.


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