Scientists Manage to Successfully Grow Plants in Lunar Soil

After 50 years of astronauts bringing the moon soil samples to Earth, University of Florida researchers have successfully managed to grow plants using the lunar soil for the first time. The scientists brought the lunar soil (also called lunar regolith) to Earth during the NASA Apollo 11, 12, and 17 missions in 1969 and 1972. With the growth of plants in lunar soil, scientists have set a possibility of growing food on the moon for the future.

The journal of Communications Biology includes the new research findings. For experimentation, they planted thale cress or arabidopsis because they were aware of its complete genetic code. It enabled them to easily identify their genes within the plant during its growth to better adapting the lunar soil conditions.

Growth is a Bit Slow!

The scientists worked only with 12 g of lunar soil and Earth’s volcanic ash for better control. Furthermore, the researchers planted the seeds of arabidopsis seeds in four tiny wells containing the soil samples. And, after a few days, they noticed buried growth of arabidopsis plants in the samples. Nonetheless, the scientists were amused with plant growth in the lunar soil. Plus, the lunar soil also does not interfere with the signals and hormones used in plant germination.

Scientists Manage to Successfully Grow Plants in Lunar Soil

Image: Hindu

So far the Earth soil-grown plants were faster and bigger compared to the plants grown in lunar soil. It is because the plants at their genetic level were pulling out from the tools utilized for coping with stressors, like metals and salt. Hence, researchers found that plants perceived the environment of lunar soil as stressful.

However, scientists are working on using the gene expression data for ameliorating the stress responses to ensure that plants become familiar with the lunar soil. Hence, their health and growth won’t get affected.

Why’s Space Plantation Important?

Despite the little and slower growth, researchers are still encouraged to work on growing space plants. The Soviets have had the rights to a plantation in space since 1966. At that time, they launched certain seeds into orbit and later grew them on Earth. However, those plants were not grown using lunar soil.

Scientists Manage to Successfully Grow Plants in Lunar Soil

Image: Hindu

Wondering why it’s important to consider space plants? It is because space plants could help researchers solve the problem of space’s harshest environment for humans, like lack of oxygen and food. If the plantation in space is possible, it would let humans eat them during their space missions. Moreover, plants could even turn exhaled carbon dioxide into vital oxygen for humans to breathe.

While this new move has given everyone hope to live on a new planet in the future, various environmentalists are not happy with this idea. It is because they worry that humans will spoil the environment of another planet, like Earth.

What do you think about plant growth in space? Spare a thought in the comment section below.

Via: Inhabitat

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