In the new study, researchers from the University of Florida showed the arabidopsis plant – thale cress – can successfully sprout and grow in soil that was collected from the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 missions.

The study also investigated how plants respond biologically to the Moon’s soil, also known as lunar regolith, which is very different from soil found on Earth.

“Showing that plants will grow in the lunar soil is actually a huge step in that direction of being able to establish ourselves in lunar colonies,” said Rob Ferl, a professor of horticultural sciences at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).

Ferl stressed it was important to show both that lunar soils were not harmful to terrestrial life and that terrestrial life could establish itself.

The researchers also established what the findings mean in relation to growing food fit for human consumption on the Moon.