Why do scientists from NASA fed animals the lunar soil

In the late 60’s and early 70-ies, while the continued space program, “Apollo”, space Agency NASA has conducted quite a strange scientific experiments. 6 successful missions to the moon the Americans have brought to Earth a total of more than 380 kilograms of lunar soil samples. The main part of these pristine samples are still stored behind seven seals. NASA gives them various scientific laboratories across the globe in very limited quantities – only a few grams. However, almost all of the first 22 kg of lunar soil brought to Earth in the framework of the mission “Apollo-11” was used for scientific and medical experiments on human beings.

Why you need a quarantine?

Today returning from space, the astronauts and cosmonauts working aboard the International space station, leaving the space ship and called out to the people immediately after planting. However, during the first space flights in the 60-ies and in particular the missions to the moon, scientists did not know whether the space environment and the lunar soil, which brought with them the astronauts.


After returning to the land of the astronauts “Apollo-11” was placed in quarantine in special bioprotective suits and transported in a sealed van in the research laboratory

As soon as the astronauts of mission “Apollo 11” Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, buzz Aldrin returned home, they were isolated from the external environment, planted in a special closed room for quarantine. They held it for a few weeks. In all that time, astronauts were only 20 scientists, who also were in quarantine.

Why perform experiments with animals?

Scientists were not sure whether brought samples of lunar soil, worked with the astronauts, any microorganisms that can lead to the outbreak of new infectious diseases. Thus, while some researchers examined the astronauts on the possibility of the development of space infections, and other specialists NASA conducted medical experiments of the lunar samples over the animals.

According to NASA researcher Charles berry, who took part in these experiments, he and his colleagues must ensure that lunar dust is completely safe for the entire ecosystem of the Earth. Not only for humans but also for animals, plants, birds, fish and insects.

For testing, researchers selected a few representatives of the living beings of each species. For example, as a representative of the family of bird NASA for experiments used Japanese quail.


Japanese quail

Marine species were represented by species of grey and pink shrimp, and some oysters, aquarium fish, guppies and small freshwater karpovo. As representatives of insects for experiments with the lunar dust chose a normal room flies, moths, cockroaches and redheads. In addition, laboratory mice were used.


An experiment with mice

As experiments were conducted with animals?

First, scientists milled samples of lunar soil (regolith) to a fine powder and then sterilized with high temperatures. Security check of lunar dust on living beings was carried out in different ways. For example, birds and mice was done by intramuscular injection with a solution containing particles of lunar regolith. For marine organisms, which is put in aquariums, the dust slipped into the water. For insects and dust mix with food.


Experiment with birds

In addition to tests on animals and insects, NASA, together with the Ministry of agriculture of the USA has tested the safety of lunar dust to earth plants. In experiments in ordinary earth was added milled samples of lunar soil. Then, in the soil planted with seeds of various agricultural crops: tomatoes, tobacco, cabbage, onions, asparagus, corn and others.


All the plants survived and eventually grew


Experiment with corn


… and the tobacco plant

Interestingly, some used in the experiment, the plants showed the best growth in soil with the lunar regolith than in terrestrial sandy soil, which the researchers used for comparison.

Is there on the moon life?


Splashdown lander mission “Apollo-14”

Similar experiments with animals and plants, NASA conducted after the space mission “Apollo-12” and “Apollo-14”. In total, the experiments were carried out with 15 different types of living organisms. In addition, the Agency has tried to cultivate samples of lunar soil, by placing them in Petri dishes. Thus, scientists wanted to make sure that in the lunar soil does not contain extraterrestrial microorganisms, which can give growth.

But in the end of lunar dust, nothing grew. She was completely sterile.

If the lunar soil?

The total of all research in lunar soil samples, no extraterrestrial microbes have not found. The astronauts collected samples of lunar regolith on the moon, too, was not detected any viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens of infectious diseases. Everything was healthy. As well, and people who stayed in contact during the research on the Ground.

Almost all the animal species that were used in the experiments survived, too. And cockroaches in particular. What is quite surprising. These insects are generally able to survive anything.

It is noted that killed some oysters, living in water with particles of lunar soil. But scientists explain this result by the composition of the water, and the fact that at the time of the experiments the oysters were the mating season (the breeding season). During the experiments, oysters have experienced severe stress due to changed environmental conditions. However, in subsequent studies with the participation of oysters, which was held after the mission “Apollo 12”, they all survived.

In the end, convinced of the safety of lunar regolith, NASA stopped the experiments on human beings. But they continued until the completion of the space mission “Apollo-14” in 1971. After that, the satellite of the Earth people flew three more times. But the Agency never conducted a quarantine procedure for astronauts returning from the moon, as well as for scientists who then worked with them.