11:52 AM PDT, May 13, 2022
Using soil samples of dust collected during the 1969-1972 Apollo missions to grow plant life, the seeds sprouted after two days, it was announced this week, according to BBC.
“I can’t tell you how astonished we were,” Anna-Lisa Paul, a University of Florida professor who co-authored a paper on the findings, said. “Every plant – whether in a lunar sample or in a control – looked the same up until about day six.”
The process of growing plant life from Moon soil has been decades in the making, NASA said.
“Here we are, 50 years later, completing experiments that were started back in the Apollo labs,” Robert Ferl, a professor in the Horticultural Sciences department at the University of Florida, Gainesville, said in a statement on NASA’s website.
“We first asked the question of whether plants can grow in regolith. And second, how might that one day help humans have an extended stay on the Moon,” he added.
While the news is exciting for what the potential future holds, the scientists did say that plants were not as robust of lush as those grown on soil from Earth or even in volcanic ash. They were diminutive, so more research and testing is required, according to NASA.
However, the possibility that plant life could grow is exciting for all involved.
“This research is critical to NASA’s long-term human exploration goals as we’ll need to use resources found on the Moon and Mars to develop food sources for future astronauts living and operating in deep space,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “This fundamental plant growth research is also a key example of how NASA is working to unlock agricultural innovations that could help us understand how plants might overcome stressful conditions in food-scarce areas here on Earth.”