- Awards Season
- Big Stories
- Pop Culture
- Video Games
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.
Latest Critic Reviews
Latest user reviews, where to buy, all platforms.
Based on 18 Critic Reviews
Based on 3 Critic Reviews
Based on 14 Critic Reviews
Based on 6 Critic Reviews
- All Reviews
- Positive Reviews
- Mixed Reviews
- Negative Reviews
Summary Star Trek: Resurgence is a narrative adventure game featuring dialog choices, relationship building, and exploration. Alongside dialog-driven role playing and rich branching storylines, you will also engage with the Star Trek universe in a variety of other gameplay styles, including shuttle piloting, phaser fights, tricorder scanning, ... Read More
- PlayStation 5
- Xbox Series X
- PlayStation 4
- Dramatic Labs
- Third-Person Adventure
Escape from Monkey Island
Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse - Episode 2: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak
Grim Fandango Remastered
Gerda: A Flame in Winter
Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God
Life is strange 2: episode 5 - wolves.
Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon
Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan
Life is strange 2: episode 4 - faith.
Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse - Episode 5: The City That Dares Not Sleep
Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse - Episode 1: The Penal Zone
Life is Strange 2: Episode 1 - Roads
Arise: A Simple Story
Games Like 'Warhammer 40,000: Darktide' to Play Next
As fun as the latest in the franchise is, there are plenty of other cooperative shooters worthy of your time.
Games Like 'Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion' to Play Next
'Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion' is an intriguing RPG, but there are several titles that offer a similar experience.
2022 Game Award Winners, From 'Elden Ring' to 'Stray'
'God of War Ragnarök,' took home the most trophies, but 'Elden Ring' nabbed the top prize.
Games Like 'The Callisto Protocol' to Play Next
Once you've wrapped up 'The Callisto Protocol's' 13-hour campaign, there are plenty of other horror games to check out next.
Games Like 'Marvel's Midnight Suns' to Play Next
Whether you're seeking another strategy game or bombastic Marvel adventure, something is bound to catch your eye.
Games Like 'Gundam Evolution' to Play Next
If its mixed reviews have you pausing, consider playing these 10 games like 'Gundam Evolution.'