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Researchers successfully grew plants in Apollo-era lunar soil. Their work could inform future space farmers.

Added 05-14-22 03:14:01pm EST - “Plants grown in moon dirt showed signs of stress, were smaller, and grew more slowly than their counterparts grown in soil from Earth.” - Businessinsider.com

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Posted By TheNewsCommenter: From Businessinsider.com: “Researchers successfully grew plants in Apollo-era lunar soil. Their work could inform future space farmers.”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

For the first time, scientists have grown plants in soil from the moon. Their insights could one day help future space farmers grow earthly plants on other worlds.

In a new study, published Thursday in the journal Communications Biology, researchers at the University of Florida planted seeds in samples of soil from the moon, more properly called lunar regolith, which was brought to Earth a half-century ago by the Apollo astronauts.

The experiment consisted of using 12 grams — just a few teaspoons — of lunar soil collected during the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 missions, along with a control group of volcanic soil from Earth, which has a similar composition to lunar dirt. Researchers planted seeds of fast-growing thale cress, a weedy plant, which is often used in science due to its fully mapped genetic code. The seeds sprouted within three days.

"We were filled with wonder as we handled these samples, collected by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, Gene Cernan, Harrison Schmidt, and the other moonwalkers of the 1960s and 1970s," the research team wrote in an opinion piece for The Hill. "Seeing the seeds sprout was awe-inspiring, knowing that our research may one day help astronauts grow plants as a source of food and oxygen during deep space missions and long stays on the moon."

Reliably cultivating crops in space will be necessary for would-be space travelers to survive longer missions, according to Rob Ferl, one of the study authors and a professor of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida. 

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