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Researchers demonstrate that terrestrial plants can be grown in Lunar soil for the first time ever

Tyler Jones/UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones
UF/IFAS Communications
By day 16, there were clear physical differences between plants grown in the volcanic ash lunar simulant, left, compared with those grown in the lunar soil, right.

During NASA’s Apollo missions during the late 1960s and early 70s astronauts collected lunar rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand, and dust, and brought those materials back to earth. Those samples have been tested extensively over the decades, but now, for the first time ever, a team of researchers at University of Florida have demonstrated that terrestrial plants can be grown in lunar soil, which is called lunar regolith.

NASA loaned the team just 12 grams to work with. The samples had been collected during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions. And they didn’t just see if plants could grow in it, but how they responded genetically.

This work is part of the Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis Program, or ANGSA, which is an effort to study the samples returned from the Apollo Program in advance of NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions to the Moon’s South Pole, which intends to establish a long-term human presence on the lunar surface.

Dr. Anna-Lisa Paul, research professor in the department of horticultural sciences in the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and director of the university’s Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research