NASA grows plants on lunar soil for the first time – Science

NASA grows plants on lunar soil for the first time – Science

In an experiment conducted by researchers at the University of Florida (USA), seeds were planted in rock and moon dust samples that were brought to Earth by Apollo astronauts half a century ago. This Thursday, the 12th, appeared in the magazine. Nature Communications Biology And the study, funded by the US space agency NASA, is the first known example of plants grown in the soil. LunarSaid co-author Anna Lisa Paul, a biologist at the University of Florida.

The result they found was that plants could grow on the moon’s soil – they don’t love it, get stressed and can turn purple after initially looking green, but still They can sprout, send roots through the moon’s soil, sprout leaves, sprout, and possibly be edible.

Paul and his co-author and co-author, Robert Furl, obtained four grams of lunar dust from NASA and finished with 12 grams – four of the three missions: 11, 12 and 17. They planted the seeds of water-like plants. Scientists had no idea what to expect when they added water to the samples. The soil was sealed and inserted. Johnson Space Center NASA in Houston. The samples were never exposed to air, liquid water or any ground facility. “We didn’t know if they were going to explode, if they were going to explode and bubble up,” Paul said.

The samples repel water and were highly hydrophobic. Researchers worked on the moon’s soil to gradually absorb water and add a nutrient solution to it, and the plants began to germinate and germinate. It was noted that the soil taken from the surface of the Apollo 11 astronauts was not as conducive to development as that of the later two Apollo missions.

Subsequent analysis shows that the plants activated stress genes, as can be seen in plants that are exposed to harsh conditions, such as brackish water. The researchers concluded that lunar soil could be used for plant production and experiments on the moon, but “this is not a benign growth,” the study said. “I think it’s amazing that the plant grows even in these conditions,” Furl said. “She is under pressure, but she does not die. She does not stop growing. She adopts.”

The experiment is said to be encouraging for NASA and other space agencies that hope to support human missions in the future.

The surface of the moon taking advantage of natural resources. “The idea of ​​bringing lunar soil into a lunar greenhouse is a dream come true,” Furl said. “If you look at science fiction, plants have always been part of the deeper research agenda.”

Lunar soils have some elements that are familiar to us, including iron and magnesium, but they lack many of the minerals found on Earth. Also, its texture is different, rough: many small, sharp shards. It also contained microscopic pieces of glass that had escaped the effects of the meteor. For these reasons, the roots of the plants did not grow as straight as the roots of the plants planted in imitation of the moon’s soil, which acted as a control for the experiment. “The roots were more bent and twisted,” Paul said. Still, the plants will be edible, she says. “It’s edible, but it’s not particularly delicious. It’s not considered a food crop in itself,” he said of Watercress.

There is no claim that the moon can ever be green, but plants can be genetically modified to be more adaptable to the moon’s soil. NASA’s Chief Exploration Scientist Jacob Bletcher said that missions to the moon would require the use of on-site resources instead of transporting everything from Earth. “We’re thinking of sending astronauts to other destinations like the moon and Mars, so we have to learn to stay away from Earth,” Bletcher said.

Sharmila Bhattacharya, a scientist at NASA’s program for space biology, said more work remains to be done.

Plant cultivation is a useful tool in the search for the moon. He noted that the plants are already grown on the International Space Station and do more than just one nutrition job. “Astronauts like to be close to plants,” he said. They check the plants in their spare time. “It really amazed us how much they love the habitat of these plants,” he said. “When they celebrate each other’s birthdays, they do it closer to the plant habitat. We realize how positive the plants have made a difference.”

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