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Scientist grow plant in moon soil

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    23rd May, 2022

Context

Scientists have for the first time grown plants in lunar soil brought back by astronauts in the Apollo program.

About

About the research:

  • For their experiment, the researchers used just 12 grams (a few teaspoons) of lunar soil collected from various spots on the Moon during the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 missions.
  • In tiny thimble-sized pots, they placed about a gram of soil (called "regolith") and added water, then the seeds. They also fed the plants a nutrient solution every day.
  • The researchers chose to plant arabidopsis thaliana, a relative of mustard greens, because it grows easily and, most importantly, has been studied extensively.
  • Its genetic code and responses to hostile environments -- even in space -- are well known.
  • As a control group, seeds were also planted in soil from Earth as well as samples imitating lunar and Martian soil.

Key findings:

  • Every plant -- whether in a lunar sample or in a control -- looked the same up until about day six.
  • But after that, differences started to appear: the plants in the lunar samples grew more slowly and had stunted roots.
  • After 20 days, the scientists harvested all the plants, and ran studies on their DNA.
  • In the future, scientists want to understand how this environment could be made more hospitable.
  • NASA is preparing to return to the Moon as part of the Artemis program, with a long-term goal of establishing a lasting human presence on its surface.

About NASA’s Artemis mission:

  • NASA’s Artemis mission is touted as the next generation of lunar exploration, and is named after the twin sister of Apollo from Greek mythology.
  • Artemis is also the goddess of the moon.
  • NASA's Artemis program aims to put astronauts on the moon's South Pole in 2024.
  • The program is part of an international effort to build a sustainable human presence on the lunar surface
  • Artemis I is the first of NASA’s deep space exploration systems.
  • It is an un-crewed space mission where the spacecraft will launch on SLS, the most powerful rocket in the world.
  • It will travel 2,80,000 miles from the earth for over four to six weeks during the course of the mission. 
  • The Orion spacecraft is going to remain in space without docking to a space station, longer than any ship for astronauts has ever done before.
  • The SLS rocket has been designed for space missions beyond the low-earth orbit and can carry crew or cargo to the moon and beyond.
  • The learnings from the Artemis programme will be utilised to send the first astronauts to Mars.
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