‘Holy Cow. Plants really grow on lunar matter’

– For the first time, scientists have grown plants on moon soil collected by NASA’s Apollo astronauts. The researchers had no idea if anything would sprout from the harsh lunar soil and wanted to see if the next generation of lunar explorers could use it to grow food. The results surprised them, according to AP. “Holy Cow. Plants actually grow on lunar matter. Are you kidding me?” said Robert Ferl of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida. Ferl and his colleagues planted thale cress in lunar soil returned by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin from Apollo 11, and other walkers. moles.

The good news: all the seeds sprouted. The downside was that after the first week, the roughness and other properties of the lunar soil stressed the small flowering weeds so much that they grew more slowly than seedlings planted in fake lunar soil from Earth. Most of the lunar plants ended up stunted. The results were published in Communications Biology. The longer the soil was exposed to cosmic radiation and the solar wind on the moon, the worse the plants seemed to fare. The Apollo 11 samples, exposed a couple billion years longer to the elements due to the older surface of the Sea of ​​Tranquility, were the least conducive to growth, according to the scientists.

“Knowing that you can grow plants is a big step forward,” said Simon Gilroy, a space plant biologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was not involved in the study. on the surface of the moon.” The lunar soil is littered with tiny glass shards from micrometeorite impacts that got everywhere on the Apollo lunar landers and wore down the spacesuits of moonwalkers. One solution could be to use younger geologic points on the moon, like lava flows, to excavate soil for planting. The environment could also be modified, by altering the nutrient mix or adjusting artificial lighting.

(Read more discovery stories.)

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