Crops Grow on Fake Moon and Mars Soil

A team of scientist wanted to find out whether it was possible for humans to grow our own food in Mars or the Moon if we ever set up permanent bases there. Fourteen plant species were planted in soils that simulate the soil of Mars and the Moon.

NASA makes soil simulant out of our own terrain, and is available to purchase. Real Moon and Mars soils appear to contain the essential ingredients that plants need, except for reactive nitrogen (and an abundant water supply). Though the simulant soils closely match the composition and grain size of the real stuff, they also contain traces of the nitrates and ammonium that plants love, so the simulant is not perfect.

For the experiment scientists ordered piles of fake Mars and Moon soil, then scooped them into small pots and planted fourteen different species inside, including carrots, tomatoes, wheat, some weeds, and four that turn atmospheric nitrogen into plant food. They also planted in nutrient-poor soil dug up for comparison.

Scientists have attempted to grow plants in lunar and Martian soil simulants before, but this study appears to be the largest and most extensive to date. Most crops were able to grow in all three soils, many thrived better on the Mars simulant. The plants in the lunar soil did not have as good of an outcome.

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