(Image: The marigold plants in the first two pots on the left were grown with bacteria, while the third was not. The soil was made to mimic that on the lunar surface. Credit: N Kozyrovska / I Zaetz, via BBC)
While for most plants, the answer to this is probably a “resounding no,” it looks as if one species may be able to brave the harsh lunar environment.
(BBC News) An Esa-linked team has shown that marigolds can grow in crushed rock very like the lunar surface, with no need for plant food. […]
A team led by Natasha Kozyrovska and Iryna Zaetz from the National Academy of Sciences in Kiev planted marigolds in crushed anorthosite, a type of rock found on Earth which is very similar to much of the lunar surface.
In neat anorthosite, the plants fared very badly. But adding different types of bacteria made them thrive; the bacteria appeared to draw elements from the rock that the plants needed, such as potassium.
While marigolds may help make future space environments prettier, it will not “fill the tummies” of future colonists.
However if scientists can find a way to duplicate “this success” with other plants (perhaps in combination with certain bacteria), we may be able to establish permanent outposts on not only the Moon, but Mars as well.
Note: Also check out Ken Murphy’s article about lunar gardens, who briefly explores perfecting lunar soil and exporting it to Martian colonies.