Research is critical a NASA In terms of long-term goals, the resources on the Moon and Mars must be used to provide food for future astronauts.
“Plant growth research is also a prime example of how NASA is working to explore agricultural innovations that can help understand how plants can overcome stressful conditions in food-deprived regions on Earth,” said Bill Nelson of NASA.
It was investigated for the first time whether plants could grow on the surface of the moon, the regoliton. Now they are looking at how this could help people stay on the moon for longer.
The cultivated plant is Arabidopsis thaliana, Goosegrass, a flowering plant belonging to the cabbage family. It plays an important role in plant biology research due to its small size and ease of growth, and is commonly used as a specimen of organisms. Scientists have long known that it behaves under different conditions and what its genes look like, in fact, it was the first plant whose entire genetic stock was arranged.
NASA researchers used samples collected during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions to grow geese grass. Plants were planted in two types of soil: soil containing regolith and volcanic ash. All plants looked the same until about the sixth day. However, a change ensued, as the plants grown in the regolith were no longer as healthy as those in the control group in the volcanic ash. The regolith plants grew more slowly and caused their leaves and roots to stop and even redden.
After 20 days, the plants’ RNA was examined and it was found that the plants were producing the stress reactions they are accustomed to in harsh environments – for example, if the soil’s heavy metal content is too salty or high.
NASA researchers say it will now be easier to explore what genes plants need to adapt to thrive in regolith, as well as how to reduce the poor nature of lunar soil for plants.
Although the plants are not very healthy, they can still grow. Soil surveys could pave the way for astronauts to grow large quantities of a variety of nutrient-rich plants on the moon.
(Cover image: The experiment includes genetic analysis of the cultivated plant. Photo: Tyler Jones/UF/IFAS/NASA)
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