It might be surprising to learn this, but: There's no food in space. Like... none. At least none for many trillions of miles in either direction (that we know of).
So scientists have to figure out a way to grow food where none currently exists. And they just announced a big breakthrough on that front this week:
That's one small pot of soil, one giant leap for man's knowledge of space agriculture: scientists have for the first time grown plants in lunar soil brought back by astronauts in the Apollo program.
As a small aside: Was the one-small-step sendup really necessary?
The ground-breaking experiment, detailed in the journal Communications Biology on Thursday, has given researchers hope that it may be possible to one day grow plants directly on the Moon.
That would save future space missions much hassle and expense, facilitating longer and farther trips...
"This research is critical to NASA's long-term human exploration goals," said Bill Nelson, the head of the US space agency. "We'll need to use resources found on the Moon and Mars to develop food sources for future astronauts living and operating in deep space."
It's definitely, absolutely critical. As you may be aware, not only is there no food in space, but growing it on rocky planets could be quite difficult.
In The Martian, you may recall, botanist Mark Watney grew potatoes on Mars using... the dookie from the Martian habitat's bathroom system.
Hopefully, it won't come to that.
Thankfully, the scientists are on it:
Their analysis showed that the lunar plants had reacted similarly to those grown in hostile environments, such as soil with too much salt, or heavy metals.
In the future, scientists want to understand how this environment could be made more hospitable.
We used to have to grow plants using mules and spades; now we're talking about growing plants on other planets. Not too shabby I'd say!
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