Plants Grown in Lunar Soil for First Time

May 25, 2022 by No Comments

Good news! For the first time ever, scientists have been able to grow plants (on Earth) using lunar soil samples. During the Apollo missions, plants were actually used to determine if the soil samples returned form the moon were harmful to life on Earth. At the time the soil samples were simply dusted over various plants to monitor the reactions for unknown pathogens or reactions.

For the first time, we have successfully attempted to grow plants in the soil returned from those missions to see if they could survive, and hopefully, thrive. The study was conducted by Anna-Lisa Paul and Rob Ferl at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and was originally proposed over 15 years ago when they first requested lunar soil samples for study. A year and a half ago, their request was fulfilled.

Using 12 grams of lunar soil collected from the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 missions, the duo separated the soil into distinctive samples and planted seeds of Thale Cress - a small plant from Eurasia and Africa who's genetic code has been mapped and well understood. This is important to monitor changes in the plant and the reaction to the soil. Thale Cress has also been to space aboard the space shuttle, so it has been studied intently already.

Almost immediately the seeds began to sprout! But the growth process was slow an stunted as the plants adjusted to the alien soil. The team mapped the genes in the plant that were responding to the stressful environment and hope to able to adjust some things to make the plants more suitable for lunar plantation. For the human species to explore the cosmos, we will need to use the moon as a base at some point, and an effective base will need oxygen and food. Hopefully this study is the start of both.

Source: CNN