Scientists manage to plant plants on lunar soil

For the first time, scientists were able to plant plants on models of lunar soil brought back from Apollo 17 50 years ago. The project, led by the University of California, is an important step for humans to be able to develop its food in space, even on the moon or Mars.

The new study focuses on examining whether future sailors who will be on the moon will be able to grow vegetables in the greenhouse using the resources available on the moon: regolith. Models of these devices were introduced to Earth during the 1960s and 1970s by NASA’s Apollo missions.

Lunar regolith led by Apollo 17 mission in 1972 (Photo: Publish / ESA / Francesca McDonald)

However, regolith is a bad material. It is composed of small, dry grains and fine grains of sand, with minerals and ions not found on earth. In addition, it has no organic material, nothing, as is known, has been decomposed on our natural satellite.

To grow plants in this material, scientists need to add some nutrients and water. It works — at least in part. “After two days, we were surprised to find that all the seeds had exploded,” said astrobiologist Anna-Lisa Paul, head of the study.

Scientists have given a minimum of regolith. Each sample contains approximately one gram of soil brought by Apollo 11, 12 and 17 responsible. To control the science, they planted seeds in simulated lunar soils made of volcanic ash – a material known to scientists according to JSC-1A.

Planted in lunar soil

Working with the JSC-1A team to develop a diluted nutrient for seed growth. They use bowls with 48 holes and, in three of them, they provide the seeds with the lunar regolith in addition to nutrients.

Growth and development of seeds during experiments (Image: Reproduction / Anna-Lisa Paul et al.)

In the other four, they added seeds with simulated regolith solution. The same setup was used for three other bowls to improve statistical experiments. The utensils were then moved to the terrariums with air and light.

The boxes were used to simulate air flow in the laboratory on a monthly basis. The seeds in question are from thale agaron (Arabidopsis thaliana) – know about their rapid development. When they sprouted, they also ate the nutrients stored in the seeds, not the need for soil.

After a week, when the grocery store was gone, a difference began to appear. Compared with plants planted in the simulated regolith, growers in lunar material take longer to develop broad leaves, with smaller and some more stunted ones.

Scientists then performed genetic tests on each plant to determine which metabolic devices they used to adapt to the new soil. And they find the seeds stressful: “They work hard to stay healthy,” Paul added.


For writers of work, it is a matter of time before we can plant plants on lunar soil. “We in the world are well aware of how to grow plants in a salty and dry place,” said Robert Ferl, author of this study.

The ability to grow food plants on the moon or Mars will be key to creating human beings on Earth beyond Earth.

NASA has already done some research on the lunar regolith, but nothing like the work of Paul and Ferrl. By growing food on the spot, the burden of working on the next month or so will be less, because there will be no need to carry a lot of food. In addition, there are plants that are beneficial to the mental health of large crowds.

For some years now, cultivation of plants in the International Atomic Energy Agency (ISS) has been a reality. Crew often measure the ability to grow certain plants on a Mars or aboard spacecraft during a long journey to Earth.

The authors of the work have no doubt: the location of the farm will be in the future; and research has recently revealed a portion of the moon for biology. “For me, this is a very good sign. When we leave the world, we will bring plants with us, ”Paul concluded.

The research was published in a journal Communication Biology.

Source: Communications Biology, From Wired

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