NASA has put astronauts on the Moon six times—and thanks to these celestial excursions, scientists back here on Earth have been able to learn more about how to sustain life in outer space. Most recently, a team of researchers out of the University of Florida grew plants from soil collected during the Apollo missions. Their findings might help us grow food and produce oxygen on the Moon.

Growing plants in the soil from the moon

Growing Plants on Moon
Image Credit: NASA/Unsplash

The scientists planted seeds in the soil that the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 astronauts gathered between 1969 and 1972. They added water, provided nutrients, and introduced some light—and got the seed to sprout into an edible spring salad. This “lunar garden” grew with just 12 grams of dirt from NASA’s collection.

The team was initially sceptical that the plants would sprout since the soil originated from space. “We were amazed. We did not predict that,” said Professor Anna-Lisa Paul, the study co-author. “That told us that the lunar soils didn’t interrupt the hormones and signals involved in plant germination.” Their findings helped establish how researchers can help in growing plants on the moon in the future in and from space. “Plants helped establish that the soil samples brought back from the moon did not harbour 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,” Paul added.

An evolutionary experience

Growing Plants on Moon
Image Credit: gallarotti/Unsplash

“For future, longer space missions, we may use the moon as a hub or launching pad. It makes sense that we would want to use the soil that’s already there to grow plants,” said Professor Rob Ferl, another study co-author. “So, what happens when you grow plants in lunar soil, something that is totally outside of a plant’s evolutionary experience? What would plants do in a lunar greenhouse? Could we have lunar farmers?”

This story first appeared on www.marthastewart.com

(Main and Feature Image Credit: Courtesy of University of Florida)

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