The plants were grown on lunar soil for the first time – a milestone for lunar and space exploration.
Researchers at the University of Florida have found that watercress, Arabidopsis thaliana, can successfully sprout and grow in soil collected from the moon.
The findings could lay the groundwork for growing plants that provide food and oxygen on the moon.
Rob Ferl, one of the study’s co-authors, said: “Showing that plants are going to grow on lunar soil is a really big step in that direction of being able to establish ourselves in lunar colonies.”
Although Arabidopsis is edible, it is not tasty. The plant belongs to the same family as mustard, cauliflower and broccoli.
Anna-Lisa Paul, another co-author of the study, said: “The plants that were responding most strongly to what we call oxidative stress responses, are the ones especially in the Apollo 11 samples, are the ones that turned purple. .
“That’s the same thing in blueberries and cranberries.”
The discovery comes as NASA plans to return humans to the Moon as part of the Artemis program later this decade.
The researchers added water, light and nutrients to 12 grams of lunar soil while analyzing the growth.
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The team applied to NASA three times in 11 years for the opportunity to work with the sample and only received it 18 months ago.
Although all the plants sprouted, some were of various colors, sizes and grew more slowly than others. To make comparisons, some were planted in Earth’s soil.
The study was published in the journal Communications Biology.