Why did NASA scientists feed animals with lunar soil

In the late 60s and early 70s, while it lastedthe Apollo space program, NASA, the aerospace agency, conducted rather strange scientific experiments. For 6 successful missions to the moon, the Americans brought to Earth a total of more than 380 kilograms of lunar soil samples. The bulk of these pristine specimens are still kept behind seven seals. NASA issues them to various scientific laboratories around the world in very limited quantities - just a few grams. However, almost all of the first 22 kilograms of lunar soil brought to Earth in the framework of the Apollo 11 mission were used for scientific and medical experiments on living beings.


  • 1 Why quarantine?
  • 2 Why experiment with animals?
  • 3 How were animals experimented?
  • 4 Is there life on the moon?
  • 5 Is lunar soil dangerous?

Why do you need quarantine?

Today, astronauts returning from spaceThe astronauts who worked on board the International Space Station, leave the spacecraft and what is called go out to the people immediately after landing. However, even during the first space flights in the 60s, and in particular the flights to the Moon, scientists did not know whether the space environment and lunar soil, which astronauts brought with them, was safe.

After the astronauts “Apollo 11” returned to Earth, they were placed in quarantine in special bioprotective suits and transported in an airtight van to a research laboratory

As soon as the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission, NeilArmstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin returned home, they were isolated from the external environment, put in a special closed room for quarantine. They spent several weeks in it. During all this time only 20 scientists, who also were in quarantine all the time, were in contact with the astronauts.

Why experiment with animals?

Scientists weren't sure if they broughtsamples of lunar soil, with which the astronauts worked, any microorganisms that can lead to an outbreak of new infectious diseases. Thus, while some scientists tested astronauts for the possibility of developing cosmic infections, other NASA specialists conducted medical experiments with some of the lunar samples on animals.

According to NASA researcher Charles Berry,who participated in these experiments, he and his colleagues must make sure that moon dust is completely safe for the entire Earth’s ecosystem. Not only for humans, but also for animals, plants, birds, fish and insects.

For testing, scientists have selected severalrepresentatives of living beings of each species. For example, as a representative of the avian family, NASA used Japanese quails for experiments.

Japanese quail

Sea creatures were represented by gray species.and pink shrimp, as well as some types of oysters, aquarium guppy fish and small freshwater carp. As representatives of insects for experiments with moon dust, they chose ordinary house flies, moths, and also red cockroaches. In addition, laboratory mice were used.

Experiment with mice

How were animals experimented?

First, scientists grind samples of lunar soil(regolith) to a fine powder, and then sterilized by high temperatures. Check the safety of lunar dust on living beings was carried out in different ways. For example, intramuscular injections were made to birds and mice with a solution containing particles of the lunar regolith. For marine life, which they planted in aquariums, dust was poured into the water. And for insects, dust was mixed with food.

Experiment with birds

In addition to animal and insect tests, NASATogether with the US Department of Agriculture, they verified the safety of moon dust for terrestrial plants. During the experiments, ground samples of lunar soil were added to ordinary ground. Then seeds of various agricultural crops were planted in this soil: tomatoes, tobacco, cabbage, onions, asparagus, corn, and others.

All plants survive and grow

Corn Experiment

... and the tobacco plant

Interestingly, some of those used inExperimental plants even showed better growth in soil with lunar regolith than in ordinary terrestrial sandy soil, which scientists used for comparison.

Is there life on the moon?

The landing of the descent vehicle of the Apollo 14 mission

Similar animal and plant experimentsNASA conducted after the Apollo 12 and Apollo 14 space missions. In total, the experiments used 15 different types of living organisms. In addition, the agency tried to cultivate samples of the lunar soil, placing them in Petri dishes. Thus, scientists wanted to make sure that the lunar soil does not contain extraterrestrial microorganisms that can give growth.

But in the end nothing grew out of the moon dust. She was completely sterile.

Is lunar soil dangerous?

According to the results of all studies in lunar samplesno extraterrestrial germs were found. The astronauts who collected the samples of the lunar regolith on the satellite also did not detect any viruses, bacteria and other pathogens of infectious diseases. All were healthy. As well as the people who contacted them in the course of research already on Earth.

Virtually all types of animals that were used in the experiments, also survived. And cockroaches as well. Which is not surprising. These insects are generally able to survive anything.

It is noted that only some oysters diedliving in the water with particles of the lunar soil. But scientists explain this result is not the composition of the water, but the fact that at the time of the experiments, the oysters had a mating season (reproduction). During the experiments, oysters experienced severe stress due to altered habitat conditions. However, in subsequent studies involving oysters, which were conducted after the Apollo 12 mission, they all survived.

See also: How many times have people landed on the moon?

In the end, making sure the lunar securityRegolith NASA stopped experimenting with living beings. But they continued until the completion of the Apollo 14 space mission in 1971. After that, people flew to the satellite of the Earth three more times. But the agency no longer conducted quarantine procedures for astronauts who returned from the moon, as well as for the scientists who then worked with them.

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