Scientist tested planting seeds of a flowering weed named Arabidopsis thaliana in 12 small pots of moon soil. This is the very first time for them to use the samples retrieved during NASA missions in 1969 and 1972. It is an achievement that promised to find whether earthy plants can support human outposts on other worlds in outer space.
On Thursday, researchers said they had planted seeds of Arabidopsis thaliana, the diminutive flowering weed in 12 thimble-sized pots at which each of them contained a gram of soil from the moon. This is more appropriate to call as lunar regolith, seeing how the plants would sprout and grow. Lunar regolith is composed of sharp particles and less organic materials which are much different from earth soil. It was still unknown if the seeds could germinate or not.
It is a relief when the abundance of green sprouts grow over all of the samples, said Professor Anna-Lisa Paul, a director of the University of Florida Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research and a co-leader of the study published in the journal Communications Biology.
Paul added, the plants could grow in lunar regolith, giving us more opportunity to explore using the resources on the moon and likely Mars in the future.
All the seeds experience germination without any outward differences at the early stages of the plants growth between those spread in the regolith composed of mostly wrinkled basalt rocks and the seeds spread for comparative reasons in volcanic dust from earth with the same mineral composition and particle size.
Unsurprisingly, the regolith seeds did not as good as the comparison plants. The regolith seeds tended to grow slower and littler with more stunted roots, smaller leaves and deep reddish black coloration which are all indicating an unhealthy growth. The plants also looked stress, similar to the plant reactions to metal, antioxidant and salt.
According to Paul, the plants had to work hard metabolically though they could grow in the regolith, in fact.
However, the researchers’ point of view stated they were good and had such a remarkable growth. It is a special joyfulness to see life do something that had never done before, said Rob Ferl, the co-leader of study and an assistance vice president for research in University of Florida.
Ferl added it was an achievement to see the plants grew on the moon soil, saying that people could go to the moon and grow food there, clean the air and recycle the water using the plants like the way human do here on Earth. Life is finally unlimited to Earth.
The seeds sprouted in three days. All the sprouts were removed by the scientist after a week of growth but one was left from each of the pot. The one left would grow up to 20 days old, bearing its leaves and being harvested for further gene assessment activity.
Arabidopsis, called also as thale cress, is commonly used for scientific research. It was also used in some previous experiments in orbit for finding its speedy life cycle and comprehending its genetics.