Growing Options in Moon Dust

Image (Credit): Placing a plant grown during the experiment in a vial for eventual genetic analysis. (UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones)

Speaking of moon dust, it seems scientists have found that they can grow plants in lunar soil. This is quite a surprise given the nature of moon dust. It would seem to be an even greater feat than growing plants in Martian soil.

NASA has reported that scientists at the University of Florida have successfully grown plants in actual lunar soil from the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 missions. Only water and a nutrient solution were added to the soil before seeds were planted. Plants started to sprout in two days. After 20 days the plants were harvested and studied before they had started to flower. While the lunar soil plants were somewhat stunted and stressed, the experiment was a success.

NASA noted:

This research opens the door not only to someday growing plants in habitats on the Moon, but to a wide range of additional questions. Can understanding which genes plants need to adjust to growing in regolith help us understand how to reduce the stressful nature of lunar soil? Are materials from different areas of the Moon more conducive to growing plants than others? Could studying lunar regolith help us understand more about the Mars regolith and potentially growing plants in that material as well? All of these are questions that the team hopes to study next, in support of the future astronauts traveling to the Moon.

This is a fascinating finding if it will allow us to use the lunar surface to feed astronauts rather than bringing more material from the Earth. It is also very timely as NASA is preparing the way for human habitation on the Moon under the Artemis Program.

We wanted to learn from the Moon before pushing onto Mars. This is a clear sign that we are doing so.