If we want to create a lasting base on the Moon, we will have to be able to use the resources that are there. Among the most important resources for future lunar astronauts is obviously food. But getting food from Earth to the Moon isn’t easy, so why not grow it there?
With the ultimate goal of one day creating a garden on the Moon in mind, scientists have tried to grow plants on lunar soil samples. These had been collected during Apollo missions. According to the results of this study, which was published in the journal Nature, the experiment was a success. The researchers were able to grow the species Arabidopsis thaliana, a wild watercress, using soil from the Moon.
The team used samples collected during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions in the experiment. A control group consisting of volcanic soil from Earth, and having a composition similar to lunar dust, was also used.
The results of the experiment evidently showed that the plant flourished best on terrestrial volcanic soil. However, the plant still grew on the lunar soil. According to Dr. Stephen Elardo, assistant professor of geology at the University of Florida, they added an aqueous solution of nutrients to stimulate growth.
Elardo explained that the lunar soil was based on rock. There is almost no carbon, no water, no phosphorus, no nitrogen, and almost all the elements that a plant needs to grow are absent.
External support is needed
Thus, if we really want to grow food on the Moon, it will be necessary to amend the soil, that is to say provide it with the necessary elements. Moreover, even on Earth, gardeners and farmers need to use amendment techniques to meet the needs of plants.
The problem is that on Earth, there are tests that show what nutrients the soil needs, and what amendment techniques should be applied. On the Moon, it is not yet known what type of fertilizer will be used.
In any case, according to Elardo, this study is important because the research team discovered that young lunar soil was better for growing plants. Also, we now know that astronauts will not be required to carry earth soil when they go to the Moon. It will just be necessary to develop the ideal product to fertilize the lunar soil.