Scientists have grown plants in soil from the Moon for the first time

Tudor Cibean

Posts: 51   +2
Why it matters: Further research could help us understand which plants are best suited for growing in lunar regolith as well as which parts of the Moon are most fertile. All of this, in turn, could also allow astronauts to grow plants in soil from Mars someday.

According to a recently published study funded by NASA, scientists have successfully grown plants in soil brought back from the Moon.

Six Apollo missions collected a total of 381kg of lunar soil and rocks, and last year NASA finally decided to donate 12g of it to the University of Florida. There, researchers planted thale cress seeds, an easily-growable plant native to Eurasia and Africa, in approximately a gram of soil each and moistened it with a nutrient solution daily. They also planted a control group in JSC-1A volcanic ash used to simulate lunar soil.

Surprisingly, all of the plants germinated within 60 hours, and at first, the lunar samples looked the same as the control ones. However, by the sixth day, the researchers began noticing differences between the two. The plants grown in lunar regolith grew slower and displayed stunted roots and leaves, with some even gaining a reddish pigmentation.

Another notable observation was that plants struggled the most in samples from the Apollo 11 mission, which were harvested from the Sea of Tranquillity. This soil was exposed the longest to cosmic radiation and solar wind on the Moon.

After 20 days, the team harvested the plants, with studies of the RNA revealing that the lunar plants were under stress and reacted in the same way they would in other harsh environments, such as when the soil has too much salt or heavy metals.

NASA claims the research paves the way to someday growing plants in habitats on the Moon.

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Posts: 6,183   +6,666
Plants can grow even in sand, with little humidity. For as long as there is some water, the surrounding sediment is almost irrelevant, provided it is not toxic.

Anyhow, I think this article is a little confusing. The research is not about the possibility of growing plants on the moon's surface, which is impossible, but for using lunar soil to grow plants inside future greenhouses on the moon, because shipping large amounts of soil to the moon isn't a great option.
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Uncle Al

Posts: 8,691   +7,591
But this is a first after all; and it does prove a valuable point that it may be possible to plant crop producing vegetation on other planets like Mars ..... after all Musk is going to have to have something other than crow to eat when he's there .....


Posts: 1,508   +2,740
As corny as the line from Jurassic Park is: 'life finds a way' I believe it. You need carbon, oxygen. nitrogen and water, phosphates in the soil etc for plants but it just is further confirmation that life will just work if you have halfway decent conditions on a planet.

The initial conditions long enough for abiogenesis is perhaps the hard part. Once there is life it seemingly just can't be stopped. If you can't totally destroy multicellular life on Earth even with massive extinction level events then it just comes roaring back again.


Posts: 4,329   +2,329
I read about this.
Scientists were quoted saying it took their breath away. If they're that excited, it's probably a big deal. I think it's pretty cool.

Mr Majestyk

Posts: 1,156   +1,050
The plants will grow, but due to the minerals present in moon soil, the crops are not healthy at all. The research clearly shows this will not be an easy problem to solve.

Hardware Geek

Posts: 440   +518
Give me a few grams of moon soil and I'll make a thriving business out of serving "moon veggies" at a high end restaurant. I can advertise that they contain real moon atoms 😆
Grown in moon soil for your exclusive dining pleasure. Served with veal born and slaughtered in zero G for that extra tender cut of meat. After all, you're high society and deserve it more that those pathetic peasants struggling to survive in an economy that is putting the screws to them more and more every day. Let's all laugh at the poor people kids.


Posts: 199   +220
So, uh, about the whole "colonizing the moon/Mars" thing. Our planet currently features absolutely massive swathes of uninhabited land that are 100% more hospitable and amenable to life than the moon or Mars. Including, if I'm not mistaken, freaking Antarctica. So, given that colonizing Antarctica would not require rocket ships, I submit that we should maybe be considering colonizing that continent, the deserts of the western United States and Africa, and Canada before we consider colonizing the moon or Mars, because supporting life at any of those locations would be far easier than attempting it off-planet.

I understand that those Earth-based locations may not have quite the same romantic appeal as living in space, but I promise that it's way more practical.

Old Molases

Posts: 162   +25
And I thought that was going to stay safe from the leash of mankind. But, seeing this it is safe to say that Moon is going to be the next target for experiments.