Weed Grows in Lunar Soil (with some help) #NASA #botany #space

Fifty years ago, astronauts brought lunar regolith back to Earth. Now, University of Florida scientists have grown plants in tiny samples.

Arabidopsis thaliana, the species used for the study – though those were ground up for analysis before flowering like this one pictured. Generally considered a weed (it is found along the shoulders of roads and in disturbed land) it is often used in studies.

It was clear that the plants were not as robust as the control group plants growing in volcanic ash, and the plants were growing differently depending on which type of sample they were in. The plants grew more slowly and had stunted roots; additionally, some had stunted leaves and sported reddish pigmentation… the plants were indeed under stress and had reacted the way researchers have seen Arabidopsis respond to growth in other harsh environments, such as when soil has too much salt or heavy metals.  NASA

Plants will grow in various sterile materials, or with no solid substrate at all, given proper nutrients and light, so my first thought was… now we see that lunar regolith is not poisonous. Good to know. But it wasn’t totally inert, either.

Will astronauts, or maybe colonists, grow food hydroponically? Aeroponically? Will the pumps, pipes, and valves needed for such systems be too much to transport and maintain compared to beds of local regolith? Even after whatever treatments may be needed to prepare the alien soil? Will bioreactors brewing microbes make more sense? I suspect all these possibilities will be tried at some point, but I can’t predict what method will win. Maybe bulk calories will come from those bioreactors, with herbs and flowers that brighten a hard life in space sitting on every table. What plants would you want in your colony?

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2 thoughts on “Weed Grows in Lunar Soil (with some help) #NASA #botany #space

  1. Clearly lunar regolith is not ideal for growing plants, but it’s encouraging to know that plants can grow in that stuff. Maybe after the lunar mining corporation removes all the valuable metals, what’s left will be better suited for growing things.

    Asparagus is my favorite vegetable, so if I’m living on the Moon or Mars, I really hope asparagus is an option.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember old scifi stories that gave everyone a handful of pills each day instead of food. Even if you could fit a balanced diet into pills (and it would take a lot of pills)… eek. Who’d be happy eating that way? So… noted. Asparagus added to the Mars supply list.

      Liked by 1 person

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