For any astronaut hoping to survive on the surface of the moon, growing crops will be essential.
Now, scientists have taken “a small step” towards growing plants on the lunar surface, after showing that it is possible to grow talc cress in lunar soil, even here on Earth.
The results give hope that plants can be grown on the moon during future space missions.
“For future longer space missions, we could use the Moon as a hub or stepping stone,” explained Professor Rob Ferl, one of the study’s authors.
“It makes sense that we would like to use the soil that is already there to grow the plants.”
Scientists have taken “a small step” towards growing plants on the lunar surface, after showing that it is possible to grow talc cress in lunar soil
Researchers at the University of Florida cultivated the plants in the ground collected by NASA during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions
The lunar soil could be used to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and the ROCKET FUEL to power future missions to Mars
Lunar soil could potentially be converted into rocket fuel to power future missions to Mars, a new study he found.
Analysis of the coarse, jagged grains of dirt reported by the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e 5 found that regolith on the moon contains compounds that convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.
Soil is rich in iron and titanium, which function as catalysts in sunlight and could transform the carbon dioxide and water released by astronauts’ bodies into oxygen, hydrogen and other useful by-products such as methane to power a moon base.
Since liquefied oxygen and hydrogen produce rocket fuel, it also opens the door to a low-cost interplanetary gas station on the moon for travel to the Red Planet and beyond.
This is seen as a critical step for space agencies around the world because it is so expensive to launch cargo into orbit.
While previous studies have dusted plants with lunar soil (also known as regolith) to test for pathogens, scientists have not grown plants in the soil until now.
‘So what happens when you grow plants in lunar soil, something that is totally outside a plant’s evolutionary experience? What would plants do in a lunar greenhouse? Could we have lunar farmers? ‘ Professor Ferl questioned.
To answer these questions, the team decided to plant Thale cress seeds in lunar soil, add water, nutrients, and light, and see what happened.
However, the team only had 12 grams of lunar soil on loan from NASA to do so, meaning they had to conduct the experiment in thimble-sized pits instead of full-size pots.
The researchers chose to use watercress (Arabidopsis thaliana) because its genetic code has already been fully mapped.
For comparison, the researchers also planted seeds in a range of terrestrial soils, including those that simulate Martian soils.
To their delight, the researchers found that almost all of the seeds have germinated.
‘We were amazed. We didn’t anticipate that, “said Professor Anna-Lisa Paul, one of the study’s authors.
“This told us that the lunar soils have not disrupted the hormones and signals involved in plant germination.”
However, the team observed the differences between plants grown in lunar soil and those grown in control soils.
Some of the plants grown in lunar soils were smaller, while others grew slower or varied in size.
The team decided to plant seeds of this cress in the lunar soil, add water, nutrients and light, and see what happened.
This suggests that plants must work to cope with the chemical and structural composition of the lunar regolith, according to Professor Paul.
These results were confirmed in a follow-up study that looked at the gene expression patterns of plants.
‘At the genetic level, the plants were extracting the tools typically used to cope with stressors, such as salt and metals or oxidative stress, so we can infer that plants perceive the lunar soil environment as stressful,’ explained the professor. Paul.
The team looked at the differences between plants grown in lunar soil and those grown in control soils
Ultimately, we would like to use gene expression data to help address how we can improve stress responses to the level where plants, especially crops, are able to grow in lunar soil with minimal impact on their health. “.
Growing plants in lunar soils can also change the moon itself, according to Dr. Stephen Elardo, who collaborated on the study.
“The Moon is a very, very arid place,” he said.
‘How will the minerals in the lunar soil react to the growth of a plant, with the addition of water and nutrients? Will adding water make mineralogy more hospitable to plants? ‘
The researchers hope to answer these questions in follow-up studies.
The study comes at the start of NASA’s Artemis program, with the goal of sending humans back to the moon by 2025.
‘Artemis will require a better understanding of how to grow plants in space,’ concluded Professor Ferl.
WHAT WAS THE APOLLO PROGRAM?
NASA photo taken on July 16, 1969 shows the huge 363-foot tall Apollo 11 Spacecraft 107 / Lunar Module S / Saturn 506 spacecraft launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39. Kennedy Space Center (KSC), at 9: 00: 32 on (EDT).
Apollo was NASA’s program launched in 1961 and eight years later it took the first man to the moon.
The first four flights tested equipment for the Apollo program, and six of the other seven flights managed to land on the moon.
The first manned mission to the moon was Apollo 8 which circled it on Christmas Eve in 1968 but did not land.
The Apollo 9 crew spent ten days in Earth orbit and completed the first manned flight of the lunar module, the section of the Apollo rocket that would later land Neil Armstrong on the moon.
The Apollo 11 mission was the first to land on the moon on July 20, 1969.
The capsule landed on the Sea of Tranquility, carrying mission commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin.
Armstrong and Aldrin walked the lunar surface while Michael Collins remained in orbit around the moon.
When Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon, he said, ‘This is one small step for (a) man; a big step for humanity. ‘
Apollo 12 landed in the same year on November 19 on the Ocean of Storms, he writes NASA.
Apollo 13 was supposed to be the third mission to land on the moon, but at just under 56 hours of flight, an oxygen cylinder explosion forced the crew to cancel the lunar landing and move to the lunar module of the Aquarius to return to Earth.
Apollo 15 was the ninth manned lunar mission in the Apollo space program and at the time considered the most successful manned spaceflight to date due to its long duration and greater emphasis on scientific exploration than it was was possible in previous missions.
The last Apollo moon landing occurred in 1972 after a total of 12 astronauts landed on the lunar surface.
Astronaut Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin unpack experiments from the lunar module on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Photographed by Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969