New NASA-funded research breaks new ground in plant growth study. In the early years, the Apollo astronauts took part in bringing lunar surface material, referred to as regolith, back to the earth for future research. Fifty years later, during the Artemis era, the next astronaut brought soil samples that researchers have used to grow plants successfully.
During the study, the researchers planted the Arabidopsis thaliana seeds and other cruciferous vegetables, including cauliflower and broccoli, in the nutrient-poor lunar soil. In a paper published in the " communications Biology" journal, researchers from the University of Florida showed that plants could sprout and grow in moon soil. The study also reviewed how plants biologically respond to the lunar soil.
Why Are Scientists Studying Soil from the Moon?
The search for life outside the earth has gained momentum, with space visits now becoming common. Scientists have focused explicitly on the moon, studying various objects, including lunar soil. Plant life is essential to support space missions and the possibility of establishing a lunar base.
Scientists are now studying soil from the moon to see if plants would grow, which is an important step in lunar exploration. The studies also help understand if there are any pathogens or elements harmful to life. According to NASA, studying moon soil may help us know how plants can withstand stressful conditions in food-scarce areas. In addition, the lunar soil studies investigate plants' biological responses and how possible it is to support future space visits.
Where Did this Study Take Place?
The research on the moon soil is fundamental to unlocking innovations, especially in agricultural endeavors. Internationally recognized scientists and experts in the study of plants in space, Anna-Lisa Paul and Rob Ferl successfully showed plants could grow in moon soil.
This study took place at the University of Florida using samples obtained from Apollo 11, 12, and 17. The research was funded by NASA, proving it was possible to grow plants on the moon in the future. The experts discovered that the moon soil did not interrupt or interfere with the signals and hormones responsible for plant germination during the study.
What Can this Mean for Using Resources from the Moon?
Lunar exploration mainly aims at establishing the possibility of habitation in the future. Resources from the moon help researchers make informed decisions in this study. The moon soil sample used to grow plants is a significant breakthrough showing we can use moon resources for future space missions.
Previously, ferrying resources to the moon to sustain a mission and explorers was usually expensive. However, following this breakthrough by scientists, future lunar explorations can lower costs by utilizing the resource already on the moon for survival.
Utilizing the moon soil samples also enables future space missions to last longer while solving some life challenges on earth. These may include supplemental nutrition in our diets and other future exploration. Still, the study is an excellent guideline to alleviate the limitations of such resources.
What Does this Mean for Future Space Exploration?
NASA aims to send another man and the first woman on the moon by 2024 and set sustainable travel by 2028 through the Artemis program. With such scientific breakthroughs in growing plants on lunar soil, NASA holds it as a significant stepping stone to this ultimate goal of sustainable travel and, later, possibly landing on Mars.
The successful discovery makes it possible and easy for future exploration by carrying out investigations that prove challenging.
Get the latest from The Futurist every afternoon in your inbox
Check out some of the newest posts from The Futurist