Scientists have grown plants in soil from the Moon, a first in human history and a watershed moment in lunar and space exploration.
In a new research paper published in the journal Communications Biology on May 12, 2022,
This research is a first step toward growing plants for food and oxygen on the Moon or during space missions in the future. More immediately, this research comes as the Artemis Program plans to return humans to the Moon.
“Artemis will require a better understanding of how to grow plants in space,” said Rob Ferl, one of the study’s authors and a distinguished professor of horticultural sciences in the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).
Even in the early days of lunar exploration, plants played an important role, said Anna-Lisa Paul, also one of the study’s authors and a research professor of horticultural sciences in UF/IFAS.
“Plants helped establish that the soil samples brought back from the moon did not harbor pathogens or other unknown components that would harm terrestrial life, but those plants were only dusted with the lunar regolith and were never actually grown in it,” Paul said.
Paul and Ferl are internationally recognized experts in the study of plants in space. Through the UF Space Plants Lab, they have sent experiments on space shuttles, to the International Space Station, and on suborbital flights.
“For future, longer space missions, we may use the Moon as a hub or launching pad. It makes sense that we would want to use the soil that’s already there to grow plants,” Ferl said. “So, what happens when you grow plants in lunar soil, something that is totally outside of a plant’s evolutionary experience? What would plants do in a lunar…
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