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Project Title:  Phycoremediation of Lunar Regolith Towards In Situ Agriculture Reduce
Images: icon  Fiscal Year: FY 2024 
Division: Space Biology 
Research Discipline/Element:
Space Biology: Plant Biology  
Start Date: 03/01/2024  
End Date: 02/28/2025  
Task Last Updated: 04/18/2024 
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Principal Investigator/Affiliation:   Broddrick, Jared  Ph.D. / NASA Ames Research Center 
Address:  Bldg N288, Room 106 
Mail Stop N288-1 
Moffett Field , CA 94035 
Phone: 650-604-2239  
Congressional District: 16 
Organization Type: NASA CENTER 
Organization Name: NASA Ames Research Center 
Joint Agency:  
Peers, Graham  Ph.D. Colorado State University 
Project Information: Grant/Contract No. Internal Grant 
Responsible Center: NASA ARC 
Grant Monitor: Griko, Yuri  
Center Contact: 650-604-0519 
Unique ID: 15947 
Solicitation / Funding Source: 2022 Space Biology NNH22ZDA001N-SBR: E.9 Space Biology Research Studies 
Grant/Contract No.: Internal Grant 
Project Type: Ground,NASA GeneLab 
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Space Biology Element: (1) Plant Biology
Space Biology Cross-Element Discipline: None
Space Biology Special Category: (1) Bioregenerative Life Support
Task Description: NASA and its partners around the world are going back to the Moon to stay. A critical enabler for prolonged presence on the lunar surface is to leverage in situ resources. Of particular interest is to generate stable food sources that reclaim mass and energy in a closed habitation system. The recent effort showing terrestrial plants can be grown in lunar regolith was an important proof of concept for exo-Earth agriculture. However, plants grown in regolith from the Apollo missions showed signs of stress. Plants, particularly promising crops for in situ farming, underproduce when stressed. Thus, to facilitate in situ food production with regolith, additional strategies are required to mitigate the sources of plant stress.

Phycoremediation leverages microalgae to remove harmful components from substrates and has been used to treat contaminated soils and wastewater, to include the removal of heavy metals. These microorganisms are powered by photosynthesis, consuming carbon dioxide and generating oxygen in the process, with few other resources required. We hypothesize that heavy metal stress is a primary inhibitor of plant growth in regolith and that this stress can be mitigated by bioremediation with photosynthetic microorganisms. We are proposing a study to assess whether the cyanobacterium Arthrospira platensis (A. platensis; common name: spirulina) can process lunar regolith into a soil suitable for crop production. We intend to combine photosynthetic metabolic modeling to optimize cyanobacterial growth on regolith, assess the ability of A. platensis to capture heavy metals, and evaluate plant growth in the remediated regolith. Our proposed work to render lunar regolith more conducive to in situ agriculture supports NASA’s Moon to Mars objectives and NASA’s Space Biology Science Plan.

Research Impact/Earth Benefits: Plant growth in Apollo regolith samples indicated heavy metal stress. Phycoremediation (bioremediation by cyanobacteria or algae) is highly effective at removing heavy metals. This enables the conversion of regolith to soil via a process that scrubs CO2 and provides O2. Cyanobacterial biomass can also be repurposed for other needs (e.g., fuel).

Task Progress & Bibliography Information FY2024 
Task Progress: New Project for FY2024

Bibliography: Description: (Last Updated: ) 

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 None in FY 2024