Scientists might have found a breakthrough in what seems to be a possible beginning of the colonisation of the moon, or at least, they’re hoping this lunar discovery might lead them to one day be able to grow crops in a galaxy far, far away.
For many years scientists and astronauts have been searching for any possibility of life outside Earth. Many attempts were made, and all seemed to have failed.
However, with new technology being developed, they have never given up on achieving the impossible, and recently that patience has paid off. For the first time ever, scientists have grown plants in soil samples collected on the moon 50 years ago.
Many people may now wonder if this means humans can now go to the bright planet and start planting cabbages. Well, hold your horses, not so fast.
This soil was collected by Apollo 11, Apollo 12, and Apollo 17 about 50 years ago.
Rather late than never
Researchers planted thale cress seeds – a member of the mustard family – in the soil from the three separate Apollo missions, which were collected from different areas of the moon. A nutrient-rich solution was used to keep the growth plates moist and feed the plants.
According to an article written by James Ashworth for the Natural History Museum, the thale cress sprouted and grew in all three lunar soils.
“Plants grown in lunar soil were generally smaller, took longer to develop, and showed signs of stress such as stunted growth and colour changes,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Stephen Elardo, a planetary geochemist at the University of Florida, said these results show that the lunar regolith is capable of supporting the growth of plants, which will be an integral component of any long-term lunar habitat.
“Plants will be able to support key functions like water recycling; carbon dioxide removal; and oxygen, food and nutrient production,” said Elardo.
Asked if the plants grown from regolith are edible, lead researcher and biologist Anna-Lisa Paul said, “It is edible, but it’s not especially tasty.”
The discovery is said to be a breakthrough in the mission of growing plants on the moon.
According to a press release by NASA, the research provided a starting point for growing plants on the moon in the future. It also posed the question of whether the results could help scientists learn how to make the soil on the moon more amenable to plant growth, and if the study of how plants grow in moon regolith might possibly be able to help scientists learn more about the regolith on Mars and the prospect of growing plants there.
“Not only is it pleasing for us to have plants around us, especially as we venture to new destinations in space, but they could provide supplemental nutrition to our diets and enable future human exploration,” said programme scientist with NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences Division, Sharmila Bhattacharya.
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