Crops in Martian Soil

 

Astronaut Farmer

Martian and Moon soil is surprisingly fertile, and new research suggests it may someday be possible to harvest crops grown at off-world colonies.

When Wageningen University scientists tried to grow ten different crops in soils developed by NASA to mimic that found on Mars and the Moon, nine of them grew edible parts and viable seeds, according to research published this month in the journal Open Agriculture.

While future off-world farmers will have to grapple with countless other problems — like, uh, the lack of an atmosphere — the experiment is still a tentative good sign for the future of off-world settlements.

First Steps

The plants grown in simulated Martian or lunar soil weren’t as successful as those grown in normal Earth conditions, and in most cases the mock Martian crops fared better than the Moon plants. Still, vegetables like tomatoes, radishes, rye, and quinoa grew in both types of space soil, with spinach as the lone casualty.

“We were thrilled when we saw the first tomatoes ever grown on Mars soil simulant turning red,” project leader Wieger Wamelink said in a press release. “It meant that the next step towards a sustainable closed agricultural ecosystem had been taken.”

READ MORE: Soil on moon and Mars likely to support crops [De Gruyter via Phys.org]
More on Mars farming: Contaminating Mars With Microbes Could Kickstart Colonization
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Giant black hole is getting hungrier

 

Cosmic Burp


Black holes glow brighter when they’re taking in greater quantities of matter. That matter could have come from any combination of stars, asteroids, and cosmic gases that the scientists know passed near Sag A*. But the team doesn’t yet know whether an unusual amount of food happened to approach at once — or if something has changed within the Sag A* itself that’s making it hungrier than normal.

“The big question is whether the black hole is entering a new phase — for example if the spigot has been turned up and the rate of gas falling down the black hole ‘drain’ has increased for an extended period,” UCLA astronomer Mark Morris said in the press release, “or whether we have just seen the fireworks from a few unusual blobs of gas falling in.”

READ MORE: Black hole at the center of our galaxy appears to be getting hungrier [UCLA newsroom via Phys.org]
More on black holes: Physicists Detect Gravitational Waves From Newborn Black Hole

Moon Water

 


futurism

Moving Water

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) just spotted “moving water molecules” on the near side of the Moon — which could be a big deal for future human missions to the Moon.

Scientists observed water molecules moving around as the lunar surface heated up during the Moon’s day cycle. Researchers had previously assumed that the main source of water — hydrogen ions from solar wind — would be cut off when the Earth travels between the Moon and the Sun. But the new findings didn’t see any decrease when the Earth cut off solar wind to the Moon, suggesting that it could harbor a more sustainable source of water than previously believed.

Hot Topic

The discovery is described in a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters by researchers from the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and NASA’s Goddard  Space Flight Center in Maryland. The data was collected by the LRO’s Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP), an ultraviolet spectrograph that was built to map ultralight wavelength reflections on the lunar surface.

“This is an important new result about lunar water, a hot topic as our nation’s space program returns to a focus on lunar exploration,” said Kurt Retherford, principal investigator of the LAMP instrument from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, said in a statement. “We recently converted the LAMP’s light collection mode to measure reflected signals on the lunar dayside with more precision, allowing us to track more accurately where the water is and how much is present.”

The Shape Of Water

A groundbreaking 2017 study from Brown University suggested that there may be substantial amounts of water inside lunar rocks. At the time, the discovery was a major shift from the consensus view that most water on the Moon is located near its poles.

This year’s results discovered by LAMP seem to underline that the lunar water cycle could make water far more accessible to us during future missions to the Moon than we previously thought — the more water already exists on the Moon, the less time and resources we have to spend in trying to get it there.

READ MORE: LRO sheds light on lunar water movement [NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center]

More on water on the Moon: New Study Challenges Previous Conclusions About Water on the Moon