that American team Scientists have succeeded in growing plants in samples of the lunar regolith for the first time, a step forward in making planets more self-sufficient. future space missions.
The Led by Rob Ferrell, subordinate University of Florida, I managed, after years of trying, that the US space agency, NASA, gave him 12 grams of dust from the moon, obtained in Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions.
For their experiment, the results of which were published Thursday in the journal Communications Biology, they compared the evolution of seeds of Arabidopsis thaliana, a watercress native to Eurasia and Africa, in that lunar soil and in various samples of volcanic ash from Earth. which have similar characteristics.
The researchers verified with “amazement” that plants grew in the regolith – a historical landmark – even though they did verify that they grew worse than they did in ground ash.
Thus, those who were in Earth’s moonr “grown slower, took longer to develop expanded leaves, and had more stunted roots” than those in volcanic soils, they explain in their article in the Springer Nature group publication.
The researchers noted that while some plants grown in moon dust had a similar shape and color to those grown in ash, others “looked stunted and contained reddish-black pigments,” indicative of stress.
When they performed a genetic analysis of three plants that were smaller and darker in size, they found that they contained more than a thousand genes at different levels than those in samples grown in volcanic soil, which is mostly related to stress.
In addition, the scientists found that plants grown in samples collected by Apollo 11, which were exposed for a longer time to the lunar surface, did not grow like those from Apollo 12 and 17 and differed more in gene expression compared to those from Apollo 12 and 17. volcanic;
They noted that the plants of the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 samples “respectively presented 465, 265 and 113 genes at different levels, of which 71% were related to stress caused by salts, metals and oxygen-reactive molecules”. .
Experts think so “Cosmic rays” And solar wind damage on the lunar surface, as well as the presence of small iron particles in these terrains, can stimulate the stress response in plants and affect their growth.” The authors urge further studies of the interaction between plants and lunar soil so that we can eventually grow vegetables. efficiently on the lunar surface.
The possibility of growing crops on this star is an essential step for long-range space missions, with the idea that astronauts can produce their own food in space without having to return to Earth to refuel.
In January 2019, China’s Chang’e-4 mission He managed to grow the first plant on the moon, but died eight days later on Earth. The plant lived in a special container with soil aboard the Chang’e-4 probe, which landed on the far side of the moon on January 3 of that year, and it is believed that this small biosphere did not survive the frigid moon night. .
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