Scientists used lunar soil collected during the Apollo missions to grow plants for the first time.
- Seeds Planted in Lunar Soil Sprouted, But Plants Ended Up Stunted
- NASA is studying if astronauts could install greenhouses on the Moon
- Lunar soil was collected during the Apollo missions
The results were deemed promising enough for NASA to consider hothouses on the Moon for the next generation of lunar explorers.
Last year, researchers at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences planted watercress in soil collected by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and other Apollo 11 astronauts.
All the seeds germinated but the plants ended up stunted, scientists revealed in results released Thursday.
The team of experts said they were dubious at first but now plan to repeat the experience with more success.
“During their first week of life, there was really no difference between the witnesses and the lunar plant, so there wasn’t anything inherently toxic to the lunar regolith plants. [soil] it would prevent the plants from growing,” said Anna-Lisa Paul, a biologist and geneticist at the University of Florida.
“So everything else downstream is how to mitigate the negative responses. That was the start and the positive twist of it all.”
The research could have implications for NASA astronauts who will travel to the Moon in years to come.
“It was the first step in what will hopefully be a very long, decades-long process to understand this stuff and when we get back to the Moon, to do it on the lunar surface,” said Stephen Elardo, geologist from the University of Florida.
His University of Florida colleague Robert Ferl said the team’s first thought was, “Holy cow, plants can grow in lunar soil.
“We expect this to open the scientific window on this topic considerably,” he said.
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