For many years, the biggest challenge to traveling deeper into space and our Solar System has been the ability to grow plants outside of the Earth’s surface. Scientists used moon soil brought back from the early Apollo missions to grow plants successfully for the first time ever.
Apollo Moon Samples
Six Apollo missions returned 382 kilograms (842 pounds) of lunar rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand, and dust from the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972.
The six space flights retrieved 2200 samples from six different places on the Moon.
These samples have been used for many years to conduct many different experiments.
Now, the soil brought back is being used to grow plants for future Moon missions that will see astronauts stay on the Moon or deeper space for months and even years.
Growing Plants On The Moon
A team of two horticulturists and one geologist from the University of Florida conducted the new study.
Planting was done in plastic plates with thimble-sized wells, which are more often used to cultivate cell cultures. Each well received a gram of soil—roughly a teaspoon—and each of the three Apollo flights received four wells. To serve as a control, four wells were filled with a synthetic lunar soil comprised largely of fine, earthly volcanic ash.
The plants were irrigated and placed in transparent, vented terrarium boxes with undergrowth lights after the seeds were sowed. All of the seeds in all of the mini-pots germinated within 48 to 60 hours, although with highly varying results depending on the soil utilized.
Future Missions To The Moon
NASA has announced that they will be going back to the Moon with their Artemis mission starting in 2024. Unlink the Apollo mission where astronauts visited the Moon and came back in a matter of a week or less, NASA plans to build a space station that will orbit the moon and a Moon base where astronauts can spend weeks or even months at a time.
With the ability to grow plants on the Moon’s surface, it will help NASA carry out its mission and let astronauts spend more time there and in deeper space.