A new technique being developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Norwegian lunar farming company Solsys Mining to work lunar soil could help promote plant growth on the moon, in hopes of supporting more long-term lunar missions.
The study looked for ways to treat lunar soil, or regolith, to create fertilizer for growing plants. Previous experiments with lunar samples returned to Earth show that plants can grow in lunar soil. However, lunar regolith lacks certain amounts of nitrogenous compounds and becomes quite compact when wet, making it difficult for plants to take root and flower.
Using hydroponic growing techniques, researchers have devised a way to grow plants in nutrient-rich water rather than soil by extracting essential minerals from regolith, according to a statement from ESA.
This work is essential for future long-term lunar exploration. Achieving a sustainable presence on the moon will involve utilizing local resources and accessing nutrients found in lunar regolith that have the potential to help grow plants. The current study represents a proof of principle using available lunar regolith simulators, paving the way for more detailed research in the future.
Malgorzata Holynska, materials and process engineer at ESA, in a statement (via Space.com)
Hydroponic farming involves feeding plant roots directly with nutrient-rich water, without the need for soil. With the help of the Geotechnical Institute of Norway and the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Space, researchers have developed a method for separating the beneficial mineral nutrients in regolith from the bad ones.
In theory, the regolith would go through a classifier to extract and process valuable mineral nutrients, which would then be dissolved in water and fed into a hydroponic greenhouse where plants grow vertically on the lunar surface.
The Solsys Mining team revealed that they have already had success growing beans using simulated regolith from the lunar highlands as a nutrient source, which holds promise for maintaining a long-term human presence on the moon.
The post New Technique May Help in Plant Growth on the Moon first appeared in Olhar Digital.
Source: Olhar Digital
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