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Can Vegetables Grow in Asteroid Sand?

Attendees at a space conference enjoyed a salad made of greens cultivated in engineered soil, similar to the sand retrieved from asteroid Ryugu by JAXA.



A salad of greens cultivated in soil with a similar composition to sand from asteroid Ryugu. Kurashiki, Okayama, December 7. (©Kyodo)

A team of scientists has successfully grown vegetables in soil with a composition similar to the sand collected from the asteroid Ryugu. This was reported by Special-Appointment Professor Eizo Nakamura of Okayama University, who headed the project. 

The asteroid sand was collected by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) probe, Hayabusa2. Professor Nakamura shared his team's achievement at an international conference on space development on December 7 in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture. He said, "This marks a significant step towards achieving self-sufficiency in space," particularly on resource-scarce celestial bodies like the Moon.

Vegetables cultivated in engineered sand. (Provided by RYOBI HOLDINGS Co., Ltd. and Special-Appointment Professor Eizo Nakamura of Okayama University.)

Growing Salad in Space

For this project, Nakamura and his team meticulously analyzed the sand and rocks from Ryugu. They confirmed the presence of organic compounds, including amino acids. Subsequently, they created soil that replicated the composition of Ryugu's sand. Using this soil, they cultivated around ten types of vegetables, including lettuce, rocket, and mizuna, within a plant factory located in Okayama city.

After the conference, attendees were treated to a salad made from the harvested vegetables. The participants praised the team's efforts, calling the salad "tasty" and "just like a regular salad."

Professor Nakamura pointed out that attempts by other scientists to cultivate plants using soil brought back from the Moon by an Apollo spacecraft were unsuccessful. All the plants wilted within two to three weeks, despite successful germination.


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun

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