For the first time, scientists have planted seeds in the soil from the moon. — samples collected during NASA missions in 1969 and 1972 — in an accomplishment that announces the pledge to use terrestrial plants to support human outposts on other worlds.
The researchers said on Thursday they planted seeds of a small blooming weed called Arabidopsis thaliana in 12 small receptacles the size of a thimble each carrying one gram of lunar soil more precisely called lunar regolith, and watched how they grew. Lunar regolith, with its sharp particles and lack of organic matter, differs greatly from the soil of the Earth.
‘When we first saw that abundance of green sprouts cast over all of the samples, it took our breath away,” said horticultural sciences professor Anna-Lisa Paul, director of the University of Florida Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research and co-leader of the study published in the journal Communications Biology.
“Plants can grow in lunar regolith. That one simple statement is huge and opens the door to future exploration using resources in place on the moon and likely Mars,” Paul said.
Each seed germinated and there was no external difference in the early growing stages between those sown in the regolith — made up primarily of crushed basalt rocks- and seeds planted for comparative reasons into the volcanic ashes of the Earth with a similar mineral composition and particle size.