Scientists successful attempt in growing plants in Moon soil

Scientists have grown plants in soil from the Moon, a first in human history and a milestone in lunar and space exploration after more than 50 years of astronauts bringing the last moon-rock samples to Earth. The soil samples that were used were samples retrieved during NASA missions in the year 1969 and 1972.

The researchers used small samples of dust collected to grow a small type of cress. Much to their astonishment, the seeds sprouted after a couple of days.

The US researchers said on May 12 that they had planted seeds of a flowering weed known as  Arabidopsis thaliana in 12 small thimble-sized containers with each containing a small sample of material that were retrieved during the Apollo missions.

The Moon or Lunar soil, also termed as lunar regolith, has sharp edges and a lacks organic material, thus differing extensively from the soil on Earth. It was therefore unsure whether the seeds would germinate in lunar soil. But in two days, they sprouted and grew.

“When we first saw that abundance of green sprouts cast over all of the samples, it took our breath away,” said horticultural sciences professor Anna-Lisa Paul, director of the University of Florida Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research and co-leader of the study published in the journal Communications Biology.

She further added,“Plants can grow in lunar regolith. That one simple statement is huge and opens the door to future exploration using resources in place on the moon and likely Mars”.

In a statement, NASA’s chief Bill Nelson said, “This research is critical to Nasa’s long-term human exploration goals as we’ll need to use resources found on the Moon and Mars to develop food sources for future astronauts living and operating in deep space,”

In the early stages of growth, there were no outward differences between the seeds grown in regolith, composing of mostly Basalt salts and the others sown for a comparative study in a volcanic ash from Earth of similar mineral constitution and particle sizes.

However, with time notable differences in both the types started emerging. The ones planted in lunar soil took more time to grow, grew comparatively smaller with stunted roots and showed traits of stress indicating unhealthy growth.

Despite all negatives, researchers emphasized on the fact that the discovery was indeed remarkable and also said that the outcome surely gives the hope that someday in future plants would grow directly on Moon, thereby giving a scope for facilitating longer space trips and cutting on the expenses of future space missions.

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