Loretta Kuo

The concept of space colonisation has long been a dream of astronauts, but now it seems the preparation has begun.

A Virginia scientist is attempting to grow plants on meteorite soil, a breakthrough which could ultimately allow humans to grow their own food in space.

Michael Mautner, a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher, has already started his experiment by growing asparagus from meteorite soil in his lab, scientific news website Motherbord reported.

"People have been talking about terraforming, but what I'm trying to do is give some concrete evidence that it's possible to do this, that it's possible to grow in extraterrestrial materials," Mautner explains.

Space farming may Soon Turn into Reality
Virginia scientist Michael Mautnern grows an asparagus seedling in meteorite soil. Michael Mautnern via Motherboard

The scientist also thinks that some meteorites and asteroids contain general necessities for plant growth, including phosphate, nitrates, and in some cases water.

"What I've found is that a range of microorganisms—bacteria, fungi, and even asparagus and potato plants—can survive with the nutrients that are in extraterrestrial materials."

His latest findings are ground-breaking as they could ultimately facilitate space plantation in a protected environment.

"The conditions outside Earth are presumably anaerobic—that's an order of magnitude harder to do," Mautner told the website.

"But, if we can find things that can grow in extraterrestrial materials under Earth conditions, you can start to talk about it. We can maybe start to use those materials in artificial, oxygen-containing environments," he added.