In their first attempt, scientists have successfully grown plants in a small lunar soil sample brought by astronauts during the Apollo missions.
Researchers at the University of Florida had spent 11 years requesting permission from Nasa to borrow some of the lunar dust brought back by astronauts on the first manned Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions in 1969 and the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. Armstrong and Aldrin brought back 21.6kg of material including 50 rocks, samples of dust and two cores of rock after boring 13cm down into the Moon’s surface. They contained no water and no signs of life.
…The lunar samples are deemed to be of “incalculable historical and scientific significance”, so the scientists were given only 12 grams, just a few teaspoons’ full, to work with and had to design a miniature experiment.
The researchers used thimble-sized wells in a dish usually used for growing cells as miniature plant pots and filled each with about one gram of lunar soil. They moistened the soil with water and a solution of nutrients and added a small number of seeds from the Arabidopsis thaliana plant, a common flowering weed also known as mouse-ear or thale cress. [emphasis mine]
The plants grew, but were smaller and took longer to grow then plants on even the most extreme environments on Earth. The scientists also found that plants did better in buried lunar soil then the material on the surface that had been exposed to the harsh radiation of space, suggesting that plowing the soil before planting will enhance growth.
The highlighted words in the quote above illustrate the madness of NASA’s bureaucracy. These lunar samples were brought back so that scientists could study it, not so that it could be locked away in a vault forever never to be touched. To make this very intelligence experiment wait 11 years before getting permission is absurd.
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