Plants grown in lunar soil from the Apollo missions


If you’re like me and struggle to keep an indoor plant alive, the idea of ​​growing plants in lunar soil seems out of this world.

A team of scientists from the University of Florida has shown that this can be done by successfully growing the plant Arabidopsis thaliana In soil samples collected during Apollo 11and 12 and 17 Lunar missions. Arabidopsis thalianaalso known as thale cress, is a small flowering plant belonging to the Brassicaceae family (which includes mustard, cabbage, and radish), a valuable plant used in many plant experiments.

Plants are essential in our ambitions for extended space exploration. As model organisms, they provide insights into space-related phenomena such as gravity and radiation, but plants also provide the necessary components for human habitation, such as food, oxygen, water recycling, and carbon dioxide confiscation.

Whereas previous extraterrestrial experiments with terrestrial plants have relied on water structures, this experiment used lunar soil to understand how plants might grow on the moon. The researchers also used a compositionally similar lunar soil simulation sample made of volcanic ash from Earth as a control. Each Apollo mission soil has its own characteristics: Samples from Apollo 11 were exposed to the lunar surfaces for a longer period than those from the Apollo 12 or 17 missions, as samples were collected from different soil layers during each mission.

These videos show researchers working on lunar soil with agriculture Arabidopsis (Love Cress) and the resulting plants.

So, how did the Moon Garden grow?

The results were mixed. all samples sprouted Usually 48-60 hours after planting, with lunar seedlings appearing normal stems and plants (the first leaves emerging from the seed). Since the sixth day, researchers have found stunted roots in lunar samples compared to volcanic ash plants. From the eighth day, atmospheric (above ground) growth became slower and more volatile: lunar plants took longer to develop leaves, and also grew smaller leaves compared to terrestrial controls. Plants grown in Apollo 12 and 17 samples were better than those grown in Apollo 11 soils.

A genetic analysis of the less healthy-looking moon plants found that more than 1,000 stress-related genes were expressed at different levels in the volcanic ash plants. The Apollo 11 plants also expressed more genes differently compared to the Apollo 12 and 17 samples. Of these genes, 71% were associated with stress from salts, metals, and reactive oxygen-containing molecules. Researchers believe this may be due to increased cosmic rays and solar winds that may have damaged the moon’s soil.

While plants flourished less, experience has shown that lunar soil Could you plant life support; An important step in our understanding of the moon. Unfortunately, at the time of publication, researchers had no comment on the flavor or recipes of moon cress.

Moon soil
Researcher Rob Ferrell weighs lunar soil. Soil samples have been sealed in vials since the time of the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 missions to the Moon. Credit: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS
Moon, moon, soil, plants, genetics, space
Harvest Arabidopsis growing in lunar soil. Credit: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS
Moon, moon, soil, plants, genetics, space
Put a plant grown during the experiment into a vial for genetic analysis at the end. Credit: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS



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