Scientists successfully grow plants in Moon soil

Source: The Hill | May 12, 2022 | Alejandra O'Connell-Domenech

The successful growth of plants in lunar soil brings scientists one step closer to growing plants on the Moon.

For the first time ever, scientists have successfully grown plants in soil from the Moon.  

Researchers from the University of Florida planted seeds from the Arabidopsis plant — commonly known as thale cress — into a few teaspoons worth of lunar soil collected in the late 60s and early 70s during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions. 

After about a week of watering and feeding, the seeds grew into and out of the soil, or lunar regolith, according to a paper detailing the experiment published Thursday in the scientific journal “Communications Biology.”  

Researchers were “over the moon” with the plant’s successful growth, which marks a major milestone in lunar and space exploration. The achievement brings scientists one step closer to potentially growing plants for food or oxygen on the Moon.  

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To Paul and Ferl’s surprise, all of the seeds planted into the lunar soil sprouted, but as the plants grew bigger, the researchers noticed differences in those that had been planted in the regolith and those planted in terrestrial soil.

Some of the plants in the lunar soil grew smaller, more slowly and varied in size more drastically than those in the control group and there was also a difference in plant growth based on which Apollo site the seeds were planted into.

The soils collected from the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 missions have differing degrees of “maturity,” Paul explained, or how long they have been exposed to the lunar surface and cosmic winds, which can change the physical and chemical characteristics of the soil.

“It becomes sharper, the particles become smaller and [they] act like impediments and challenges to the roots growing and hinder their ability to absorb nutrients,” Paul told Changing America.

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