What happens if you grow plants on the Moon? New study shows how they react – Interesting Engineering

Posted: October 15, 2022 at 4:29 pm

Day 6 of experimental results, with different wells for each soil.

The three Apollo samples were affected to different extents, with the Apollo 11 samples being the slowest to grow. Given that the chemical and mineralogical composition of the three Apollo soils were fairly similar to each other, and to the terrestrial sample, the researchers suspected that nutrients werent the only force at play.

The terrestrial soil, called JSC-1A, was not a regular soil. It was a mixture of minerals prepared specifically to simulate the lunar surface, and contained no organic matter.

The starting material was basalt, just as in lunar regolith. The terrestrial version also contained natural volcanic glass as an analogue for the glassy agglutinates small mineral fragments mixed with melted glass that are abundant in lunar regolith.

The scientists recognised the agglutinates as one of the potential reasons for lack of growth by the seedlings in the Apollo soil compared to the terrestrial soil, and also for the difference in growth patterns between the three lunar samples.

Agglutinates are a common feature of the lunar surface. Ironically, they are formed by a process referred to as lunar gardening. This is the way that the regolith changes, through bombardment of the Moons surface by cosmic radiation, solar wind and minuscule meteorites, also known as space weathering.

Because there is no atmosphere to slow down the tiny meteorites hitting the surface, they impact at high velocity, causing melting and then quenching (rapid cooling) at the impact site.

Gradually, small aggregates of minerals build up, held together by glass. They also contain tiny particles of iron metal (nanophase iron) formed by the space weathering process.

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What happens if you grow plants on the Moon? New study shows how they react - Interesting Engineering

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