For the experiment described on Thursday (local time) in the journal Communications Biology, the researchers used twelve grams of lunar soil that scientists had collected during the Apollo missions in the 1970s. In tiny flower pots, they sowed plant seeds in one gram of lunar soil and added nutrient solution every day.
In control experiments, seeds were also sown in normal soil and in soil samples that mimic the soil composition on the Moon and Mars. Both in the moon soil and in the other pots, the seeds germinated within two days.
In the first six days, all the plants looked the same, explained Anna-Lisa Paul from the University of Florida. After that, differences became apparent: In the lunar soil, the plants grew more slowly and had less developed roots.
Nutrition for astronauts
After 20 days, the scientists harvested all the plants and examined their DNA. The analyzes showed that the specimens grown in lunar soil showed similar reactions to plants grown in hostile environments such as salty soil or soil contaminated with heavy metals.
The research is critical to NASA’s long-term space exploration programs, said US Space Agency chief Bill Nelson. For future projects for permanent stations on the moon or Mars, it is important to use the resources there to feed the astronauts.