If humanity is to terraform The Moon or Mars, the utilisation of extra-terrestrial soil is paramount to creating efficient agriculture. In the first ever example of alien soil working on Earth agriculture, moon soil has successfully been used to grow Earth plants.
Florida scientists grow plants in Moon Soil
In a historic move for extra-terrestrial planting, scientists at the University of Florida successfully grew cress in moon soil. Cultivated from samples of lunar dust collected from NASA’s Apollo missions between 1969-1972, the lunar dust soil ended up being the perfect material to grow plants.
Florida University professor Robert Ferl discussed the experiment using the 50-year-old soil. He said: “We first asked the question of whether plants can grow in regolith. And second, how might that one day help humans have an extended stay on the Moon.”
NASA administrator Bill Nelson explained that these experiments are an integral step to planetary colonialization. Nelson said:
“This research is critical to NASA’s long-term human exploration goals as 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. This fundamental plant growth research is also a key example of how NASA is working to unlock agricultural innovations that could help us understand how plants might overcome stressful conditions in food-scarce areas here on Earth.”
Are regolith plants as strong as Earth plants?
One of the main worries regarding growing plants in lunar dust is the strength of plants that grow in the minerals. While plants growing in the regolith is incredibly surprising, the plants that did grow are unsurprisingly weaker than those grown on Earth.
“Plants can grow in lunar regolith,” NASA explained. “They were not as robust as plants grown in Earth soil, or even as those in the control group grown in a lunar simulant made from volcanic ash, but they did indeed grow.”
For the future, scientists will be looking for ways to help regolith plants grow as strong as they would on Earth. If successful, Moon-based agriculture will be much easier for astronauts and future moon-workers to grow food and sustainable materials.