This is history: the plants grew on the lunar soil

It is possible to make the moon greener. Or at least, are considered. Research shows that growing plants on lunar soil is more difficult, a technique that works. We need to better understand what makes this growth difficult.

Taking people and allowing them to survive on earth is already a very complicated thing. But bringing a creature capable of withstanding the extremely hostile environment outside our planet is also a real challenge.

A major step has been taken through a study published in Nature Communications Biology on May 12, 2022. The author has achieved an achievement: growing plants on the lunar soil, this is the first. Explanation: They didn’t go to the moon for a little gardening session. They could use several samples collected during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions as soil to see if plants could grow there.

We have shown that terrestrial plants can grow in different regolites (Loose rock that covers the surface NdR) The moonGreetings to lead author Anna-Lisa Paul. But it’s hard!A

12 grams of rock for 12 gardens

University of Florida biotech researchers specialize in space plants. He even ran a laboratory dedicated to this question, the Space Plants Lab, which sent planters to the International Space Station to significantly monitor their growth. Here, with his team, he made a dozen small jars of various specimens, each the size of a thimble and a reference specimen from terrestrial igneous rock.

Modified a lunar regolith simulant to mimic the material found on the moon. There are some limitations to the research here because it is not clear whether the specimens are representative of the moon and how much they have changed under the influence of radiation or meteors. In addition, they were distributed in small quantities and the team received only 12 grams of rock in total!

On the 16th day, plant growth in the simulant on the left and lunar soil on the right. Formula- Study

The regolith of the moon is very different from what we have on earthStephen Allardo is one of the authors of the study. Its structure is not the same, it is much less hospitable, and it has been exposed to much more radiation. Not really the kind of soil we would use to grow tomatoes! A

But here, they did not want to grow tomatoes, but Arabettes des dames. A plant found almost everywhere in Europe and Asia, especially along the roadsides. ” This choice seemed obvious to usOne of the authors, Robert Ferrell, said: Because this plant has the advantage of being very well known. Its entire genome has been decrypted by thousands of laboratories around the world so we have a huge database. He even grew up in ISS! Another significant advantage: it is quite small and therefore will be able to feel comfortable in containers with a diameter of more than one centimeter used for testing. Once the seeds are sown, the scientists take care of them like any garden with water and light.

Positive but fragile results

There were still many limitations to growing it on lunar soil, and researchers did not necessarily win. But after long months of gardening, it is clear that the lunar soil can really accommodate the plants. “ All our garden workSmile Anna-Lisa Paul. All the specimens gave birth to trees that grew, but not all of them were very strong.A

At first, everything was fine, the seeds germinated well. But a few months later, when the arbidus sown in the simulant produces beautiful leaves, the other specimens are much smaller, and almost dead. ” Plants take longer to grow, and show signs of poor health, Anna-Lisa can recognize Paul. The environment in which they grew up was not conducive.A

Anna-Lisa Paul and Robert Ferrell in their lab
Anna-Lisa Paul and Robert Ferrell in their lab. Formula- Study

To find out for sure, they analyzed plants at the genetic level to see how they reacted. Their verdict: The presence of salts or metals that oxidize them and prevent them from being properly expressed. After all, for Robert Ferrell, it’s a success: ” If nothing else, we would be in a quandary. But a positive result, even mixed, reveals new possibilities, showing that we are on the right track.It is now a question of determining what prevents plants on the moon from recovering in order to be more resistant to the very unpleasant conditions of our satellites, to be able to correct errors and experiment with other organisms.

For writers, success in bringing agriculture into space is a necessary step if humanity wants to establish itself in other stars more or less in the long run. Be careful, teraforming fantasies are still a long way off, and this study marks only a first step. But researchers are now wondering what effect these plants might have on a very dry lunar regolith. Can the arrival of water and nutrients make the moon less hostile?

Look at the world from space

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