For the first time in history, plants sprouted on the earth from Lunar soil. NASA which funded the research said that this experiment using the Apollo Moon sample could shape the future of sustainable astronaut missions to deep space.
Researchers at the University of Florida received moon soil, also called lunar regolith, from NASA to conduct the experiment. The small samples of soil came from the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 missions to the moon. Researchers used approximately a gram of lunar soil, and moistened it with a nutrient solution. They have used thimble-sized wells in plastic plates and added thale cress seeds to the soil. Cress seeds - a plant also known as Arabidopsis thaliana that's native to Eurasia and Africa and easy to grow.
The trays have been put into terrarium boxes and added nutrient solution daily, NASA said. Volcanic ash was used as soil. According to the study, the plants all germinated within 48 to 60 hours.
Anna-Lisa Paul, another one of the study's authors said, "We did not predict that. That told us that the lunar soils didn't interrupt the hormones and signals involved in plant germination."
"At the genetic level, the plants were pulling out the tools typically used to cope with stressors, such as salt and metals or oxidative stress, so we can infer that the plants perceive the lunar soil environment as stressful," Paul said.
The plants grown in the lunar soil by the sixth day started to grow differently than the control group of thale cress. NASA said some had stunted leaves and got reddish pigmentation. NASA also said that the researchers have made the RNA sequencing of the plants after 20 days and they have found that those grown in lunar soil were under stress and reacted in ways the plant typically would in harsh environments.
"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," said study co-author Anna-Lisa Paul, research professor of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Paul and study coauthor Rob Ferl, distinguished professor of horticultural sciences at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are working hard to see if the seed would grow in lunar soil.
"For future, longer space missions, we may use the Moon as a hub or launching pad, 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 greenhouse? Could we have lunar farmers?" Ferl said in a statement.