NASA grows plants on lunar soil for the first time – Science

An experiment conducted by researchers at the University of Florida (USA) planted seeds in samples of rock and moon dust brought to Earth half a century ago by Apollo astronauts. Published this Thursday, 12, in the magazine Nature Communications Biology and funded by NASA, the American space agency, the study is the first known example of plants grown in soil. lunarsaid co-author Anna-Lisa Paul, a biologist at the University of Florida.

The result they found was that plants can grow on lunar soil – they don’t love it, get stressed and can turn purple after initially looking green, but they can still germinate, send roots through the lunar soil, sprout leaves, grow, and potentially be edible.

Paul and his colleague and co-author, Robert Ferl, fetched four grams of lunar soil from NASA and ended up with 12 grams – four each of three missions: 11, 12 and 17. They planted seeds of watercress-like plants. Scientists had no idea what to expect when they added water to the samples. The soil was sealed and filed in the Johnson Space Center of NASA in Houston. The samples had never been exposed to air, liquid water or any of Earth’s amenities. “We didn’t know if they were going to explode, if they were going to fizzle out and bubble up,” Paul said.

The samples repelled water and were extremely hydrophobic. The researchers worked to make the lunar soil gradually absorb water and added a nutrient solution, and the plants germinated and began to sprout. It was noted that the soil taken from the surface by the Apollo 11 astronauts was not as favorable for growth as that of the two later Apollo missions.

Subsequent analysis showed that the plants turned on stress genes similar to those seen in plants exposed to harsh conditions such as salt water. The researchers concluded that lunar soil could be used for plant production and experiments on the moon, but “it is not a benign growth substrate,” the study says. “I think it’s amazing that even under these conditions, the plant grew,” Ferl said. “She’s stressed, but she doesn’t die. She doesn’t stop growing. She adapts.”

The experiment is said to be encouraging for NASA and other space agencies hoping to support human missions in the future.

moon surface taking advantage of natural resources. “The idea of ​​bringing lunar soil into a lunar greenhouse is the stuff of exploration dreams,” Ferl said. “If you look back at science fiction, plants have always been part of the deep exploration agenda.”

Lunar soil contains some elements familiar to ours, including iron and magnesium, but it lacks many of the minerals found on Earth. Also, it has a different, rougher texture: lots of tiny, sharp shards. It also contained microscopic pieces of glass left over from meteorite impacts. For these reasons, the plant roots did not grow straight like the roots of seedlings planted in a lunar soil simulation, which served as a control for the experiment. “The roots were more bent and twisted,” Paul said. Still, the plants would be edible, she says. “It’s edible, but it’s not especially tasty. It’s not considered a food crop in itself,” she said of watercress.

There are no claims that the moon could ever be green, but plants could be genetically modified to be more adaptable to lunar soil. Jacob Bleacher, NASA’s chief exploration scientist, said missions to the moon will require using resources on-site rather than transporting everything from Earth. “We think about sending astronauts to the moon and other destinations like Mars, so we have to learn to live off the land,” said Bleacher.

Sharmila Bhattacharya, NASA’s program scientist for space biology, said there was more work to be done to make the

Plant cultivation a useful tool in lunar exploration. She noted that plants are already grown on International Space Stations and serve more than simply a nutritional function. Astronauts, she said, like to be close to plants. They check the plants in their spare time. “It really surprised us how much they love those plant habitats,” she said. “When they celebrate each other’s birthdays, they do it close to the plant habitat. We realize how much of a positive difference the plants have made.”

About Raju Singh

Raju has an exquisite taste. For him, video games are more than entertainment and he likes to discuss forms and art.

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