1 min read.Updated: 15 May 2022, 09:08 AM ISTLivemint
The scientists used 12 grams (a few teaspoons) of lunar soil collected from various spots on the Moon for these experiments
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Making a big advancement in the field of astrobiology, scientists for the first time managed to grow plants in lunar soil. This success would save future space missions much hassle and expense, facilitating longer and farther trips. The portion of the soil was brought back by astronauts during the Apollo program.
"This research is critical to NASA's long-term human exploration goals," said Bill Nelson, the head of the US space agency. "We'll need to use resources found on the Moon and Mars to develop food sources for future astronauts living and operating in deep space." The study has been published in the journal Communications Biology on Thursday. However, according to the study's University of Florida authors, much remains to be studied on the topic, and they intend to leave no stone unturned.
How was the experiment conducted?
The scientists used 12 grams (a few teaspoons) of lunar soil collected from various spots on the Moon for these experiments. They put a gram of soil (called "regolith") in small pots, added water, then the seeds. Nutrient solution was poured into it every day.
Seeds of arabidopsis thaliana, a relative of mustard greens, (which grows even in hostile environments) were planted in soil samples of Earth, Mars and the Moon.
In two days, all of them started sprouting.
"Every plant -- whether in a lunar sample or in a control -- looked the same up until about day six," Anna-Lisa Paul, lead author of the paper, said in a statement.
But after that, differences started to appear: the plants in the lunar samples grew more slowly and had stunted roots. After 20 days, the scientists harvested all the plants, and ran studies on their DNA.
Their analysis showed that the lunar plants had reacted similarly to those grown in hostile environments, such as soil with too much salt, or heavy metals.