Scientists from the University of Florida have successfully grown plants with lunar regolith from the moon for the very first time. This study also looked into how plants respond biologically to the moon’s soil, which is very different from soil found here on Earth. It marks the first step toward one day growing plants for food and oxygen on the moon or during space missions.
The team only had 12 grams of lunar regolith to work with, on loan from NASA and collected during the Apollo 11 / 12 / 17 missions. This meant that the scientists had to use thimble-sized wells in plastic plates normally used to culture cells, with each one functioning as a pot. Once they were filled with approximately a gram of lunar soil, the soil was then moistened with a nutrient solution before seeds from the Arabidopsis plant were added. Let’s just say that these Nike Air Max Lunar90 SP sneakers inspired by Apollo 11 are a lot easier to come by than lunar soil.
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Artemis will require a better understanding of how to grow plants in space. Plants helped establish that the soil samples brought back from the moon did not harbor pathogens or other unknown components that would harm terrestrial life, but those plants were only dusted with the lunar regolith and were never actually grown in it,” said Rob Ferl, one of the study’s authors.