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One Small Step for Agriculture? Scientists Grow Plants in Moon Soil for the First Time
From Matt Damon’s Mars potatoes in The Martian to the valuable space-grain that Tribbles were so fond of in the second season of Star Trek, science fiction has given us no shortage of opportunities to watch plants grow in space over the years. In fact, the lead horticulturist for NASA’s International Space Station (ISS) has said that she was first inspired by Star Trek: The Next Generation ’s Geordi La Forge. Nonetheless, the exact interaction between lunar materials and Earth’s terrestrial biology (specifically, experiments that determined whether plants could actually grow in the powdery gray soil that covers the surface of the moon) has eluded scientists so far — until now.
For the first time in human history, researchers from the University of Florida have successfully grown plants in moon soil — technically referred to as “lunar regolith” — from seed to sprout. Results from the NASA-funded study were published in Communications Biology on May 12, and they provide considerable insight into the future of interstellar agriculture.
A Meticulous Experiment
This particular lunar regolith was originally collected by Apollo missions 11, 12 and 17. The catch? They only had about 12 grams of it to work with, so each critical step of the project had to execute flawlessly in order to complete the experiment.
Researchers first divided the lunar soil into 12 separate plastic plates typically used for cell cultures. Then, they carefully moistened the soil with a nutrient solution before adding a sprinkle of seeds from the Arabidopsis plant, a small flowering weed native to Eurasia and Africa. To create the experiment’s control group, seeds were also planted in soil that simulated extreme environments on Mars and Earth, as well as a terrestrial substance made from volcanic ash that mimics authentic lunar soil.
“After two days, they started to sprout!” said Anna-Lisa Paul, professor in Horticultural Sciences at the University of Florida and lead author on the paper, in a press release . “Everything sprouted. I can’t tell you how astonished we were! Every plant — whether in a lunar sample or in a control — looked the same up until about day six.”
As the experiment progressed, the researchers found that the authentic lunar soil plants were developing more slowly. Many showed signs of severe stress, similar to those indicating adverse reactions to salt, metal and reactive oxygen species. Although the plants indicated that they found the lunar soil environment stressful, the few tiny sprouts have proven that lunar soil wouldn’t interrupt the signals involved in plant growth.
Gardening in Space Is No Easy Feat
The idea of growing plants in space isn’t exactly new — astronauts from the Soviet space program spent more than a decade proving they could cultivate seeds in microgravity. The effort finally paid off in 1982, when they harvested roughly 200 Arabidopsis seeds from a greenhouse module on the Salyut 7 space station, taking them back to Earth where they were able to germinate and produce healthy plants. When American astrophysicist Michael Foale stayed on Russia’s Mir space station in 1997, he was able to germinate seeds of Brassica rapa — commonly known as mizuna — also bringing them back to Earth to develop into viable plants.
Since then, NASA has continued the study of plant growth in microgravity on the ISS. The Vegetable Production System, a space garden known as “Veggie” that’s about the size of a carry-on piece of luggage and holds up to six plants, successfully cultivated pak choi and mustard greens in 2021 . Later that year, astronauts threw a taco party after harvesting red and green Hatch chilies using the same system.
The Veggie system works by protecting plants in a “pillow” filled with clay-based growth medium and fertilizer. These special bags help distribute water, nutrients and air around the roots, which would otherwise suffocate due to the way fluids in space form bubbles. Another ISS growth chamber, the Advanced Plant Habitat, uses LED lights and controlled-release fertilizer in an automated enclosure, complete with cameras and over 180 different sensors that connect directly to a team on the ground at Kennedy Space Center.
Moon Farming Has a Future
Necessary nutrients, like vitamins K, C and D, break down over time in the freeze-dried food traditionally consumed in space. Growing healthy produce in micro- or zero-gravity provides a solution to vitamin or nutrient deficiencies among astronauts while reducing reliance on freeze-dried and prepackaged meals (after all, all it took to give sailors scurvy was a lack of vitamin C). Plus, investing in space agriculture now may come in handy for the next generation of explorers, should humans end up colonizing other planets or lose existing landscapes for healthy crops on Earth due to extreme weather events.
It’s not just about providing astronauts with fresh produce on missions that may last months or years at a time, but also about their mental health. NASA’s Human Research Program is currently studying how space gardening affects astronauts’ moods and whether it can help them cope with isolation or enhance their connection to Earth while stationed between the stars. So far, no one involved in the study has viewed their work with plants in space as anything but advantageous.
There are still several variables that need addressing when it comes to the moon soil experiment, such as whether or not the location where the soil was collected would have an effect on how the plants respond to it. The study also indicated that plants grown in younger moon soil showed more minor signs of stress than those grown in mature soil, which is exposed to more cosmic wind and solar rays on the moon’s surface.
One thing is certain: The experiment offers a far better understanding of cultivating plants for food and oxygen for extended stays on the moon and future space missions than we had before. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, seeing as NASA’s Artemis Program plans to return humans to the moon and build a basecamp on the surface by 2024. The research may also help identify more sustainable farming techniques for our own planet’s uncertain future.
“This research is critical to NASA’s long-term human exploration goals as we’ll need to use resources found on the Moon and Mars to develop food sources for future astronauts living and operating in deep space,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This fundamental plant growth research is also a key example of how NASA is working to unlock agricultural innovations that could help us understand how plants might overcome stressful conditions in food-scarce areas here on Earth.”
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How William Shatner's famed 'Wrath of Khan' cry became an instant 'Star Trek' legend
"KHAAAN!" is the cry that shook Earth and space.
William Shatner's Admiral Kirk unleashed the bellow at his rival Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán) in 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a moment so profound it earned an instant spot in Star Trek history and popular culture.
Kirk's over-the-top shout-out put an exclamation point (or four) on Star Trek 's second film, sending the nascent film franchise into warp drive.
Fathom Events is bringing a 35th anniversary Wrath of Khan director's cut to theaters on Sept. 10 and 13. Prepare for an onslaught of "Khaaan!" imitations and puns, which amuses Shatner.
He insists that his vocal outburst was just another day at the office.
"Who thinks of those things when you’re making a film? Imagine thinking, 'I’m going to say the name 'Khan,' and years from now people will be talking about it,' " says Shatner, 86. "You'd barely make it through a whisper. It would make you awfully self-conscious."
History has shown that "Khaaan!" still resonates.
"As Shatner himself said, that cry is the most 'I-Khanic' moment in Star Trek history," says Scott Mantz, film critic for Access Hollywood , who interviews Shatner for a pre-movie segment. "If Wrath of Khan is the Citizen Kane of Star Trek movies, then when Shatner yells 'Khaaan!' is the equivalent of Orson Welles whispering 'Rosebud.' "
The cry caps off the epic standoff between Kirk and Khan, with Khan taunting Kirk before he cripples the Enterprise, leaving Kirk stranded alive on a barren moon, "marooned for all eternity."
Kirk, who is actually pretending his ship is disabled to lure Khan into a trap, roars in apparent frustration.
"He's an alpha male bellowing his alpha male cry, like I have seen elk do," says Shatner.
Director Nicholas Meyer says he wrote the line himself "in caps with four exclamation points."
"It’s a bit of a cheat," Meyer says. "Kirk has to make Khan believe that this round, and it appears to be a final round, has gone to Khan. He has to act like he is a man who is totally screwed."
Shatner doesn't recall more than a couple of "Khaaan!" takes.
"I hate to open up that Khan of worms, It was actually a Khan-undrum on how to play it," says Shatner. He pulled the rage, amplified by Meyer's temple-throbbing close-up, from being "totally immersed in the emotion. You cannot fake that. People would recognize it."
The shout was a hit and Wrath of Khan a box office success, allowing for a future that now spans 13 films. In 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness , featuring a new generation Star Trek cast, Zachary Quinto 's Spock paid tribute, yelling "Khan!" when Captain Kirk ( Chris Pine ) appears to die at the hands of young Khan ( Benedict Cumberbatch ).
"As I fan, I cringed. I couldn't believe they went there," says Mantz. "They cannot re-create that moment of Wrath of Khan magic."
Shatner will only say this about that Into Darkness utterance: "(Quinto) gives a great impression of screaming 'Khan.' "
Other tributes have been more successful, including an operatic stop-motion animation version seen on Robot Chicken (part of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim late-night programming) with a dramatic Italian cry that Meyer admires.
The original bellower refuses to comment on the parodies.
"I Khan-not do that," says Shatner. "They are not worthy of consideration, really. Especially by me."
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- November 3, 2023 | ‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ Nominated For Emmy Award
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Watch: Kirk’s ‘Wrath Of Khan’ Scream But In Claymation
| July 11, 2021 | By: TrekMovie.com Staff 15 comments so far
Kirk’s “Khaaaaan!” scream may be the most iconic moment of the Star Trek film franchise, and it has been recreated and referenced multiple times. This week brought a new and rather unique spin for the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan moment.
Check out this (very) short film from Dust, celebrating the 5-year anniversary of their sci-fi site and streaming channel.
As reported by io9 , Dust – the sci-fi offshoot of the Gunpower & Sky entertainment company – commissioned claymation recreations of five of the greatest sci-fi scenes of all time, with the first being from Star Trek II .
To learn more about Dust and to watch more of their original films or other sci-fi content visit watchdust.com .
See more Great Star Trek Links at TrekMovie.com .
Documentary , Feature Films (TMP-NEM)
Exclusive Clip: William Shatner & Nicholas Meyer On ‘Star Trek II’ From ‘Greatest Geek Year Ever: 1982’ Docuseries
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‘Star Trek II’ Actress Kirstie Alley Has Died
Celebrity , Viral Video/Mashup/Images , VOY
Watch: Robert Picardo As President Of Earth Officiates Marriage Of Doctor Chaotica!
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Watch Violinist Performs ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Theme
This is pretty damned accurate.
I’ve got to get my old super-8 movies onto digital. Back in the 80s I did a perfect version of this KHAN! thing myself (along with a ‘get out! Get out of there! Get out of there now!’ from Kruge and ‘klingon bastard, you’ve killed my acting career!’) at the end of a couple of rolls of film when there wasn’t enough left to do another scene. I got the trembling face part really really right, probably because I used to do the Clint Eastwood, ‘where’s the girl?’ part of DIRTY HARRY also.
I appreciate the animator’s fine attention to detail.
Sometimes my husband thinks that my passion for Star Trek has gone too far. For those times, I collect examples of people who are further out there than I am. Okay, husband, there’s a person who has spent the enormous amount of time Claymation takes to re-create Kirk’s scream in TWOK. :-)
Amazing what salons can do with mud to deage us old buzzards.
He’s so… human. Nobody’s perfect, Saavik.
What are the other four?
Will anybody ever animate PIcard’s ‘there are x-number of lights’ bit? Or ‘the line must be snorted HERE!’ for that matter. Not quite as memorable in the same way maybe?
Snorted? A coked up Picard does explain a few things…..
I remember during TNG season 2 thinking Stewart had to be on coke, because he seemed to be sniffing and sniffling a lot, and it reminded me EXACTLY of how Heather Thomas had sounded on her TJ HOOKER episode (It’s basically 48HRS with her playing the Eddie Murphy part), and that was a case when her addiction became very public shortly thereafter.
Have heard absolutely nothing to ever support that, but it’s how he sounded to me, and I watched at least 18 episodes of s2 before giving up on the show till partway through s3, when I found out they were taking unsolicited scripts.
Kirk was acting. “Hours into days”. His scream was part of the act, lol. Kirk was a better actor than Shatner, lol.
Yeah, the way he say ‘ captain spock, damage report,’ was a very subtle flag that nobody seemed to notice opening night except me.
Then again, I’m also the only person in my group who recognized Julian Glover as the bad guy in FOR YOUR EYES ONLY the year before — that was on the basis of him suggesting a wine that Moore-Bond passes on as being too scented for his palate.
If only there was a way to translate this kind of thinking into financial rewards. (I never figured out a way of making money off how I could recite Pete Rose’s first 11 years of major league batting averages from memory either: 273, 269, 312, 313, 301, 335, 348, 316, 304, 338, 284.)
But Spock was the captain. Kirk was the admiral.
Yeah, but the way he said it mattered. It wasn’t like the way he said ‘captain’ or ‘captain’s discretion’ during the dock departure, it was ‘off’ — but not off in a Shatner way. I really wonder if Meyer dared to give him a line reading for that, or led him to that reading in some other way. Hope it didn’t take as long as ‘here it comes.’
Acting, indeed. But more importantly, he was selling it because he knew exactly what his radio audience was shopping around to buy.
We should get Spock’s ‘Khan’ yell from STID too.
This will probably be the last post I’m able to write here.
Captain Kirk Screaming Khan
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