Lunar Regolith Bioremediation Experiment




    Our goal is to develop a technique to convert sharp, toxic lunar regolith into quality organic soil using low-cost bioremediation techniques to kickstart the soil genesis process. Let’s discover how we plan to tackle this!

    • In-Situ Resource Utilization

      If we want to achieve our vision of planting forests on the moon, we need to find out how we can use a readily available resource - lunar regolith - to facilitate life on the moon.

    • Bio-Remediation Methods

      We will add algae to introduce organic matter for water retention and plant-growth promoting fungi to weather the rock and sequester toxins.

    • Quality Soil at Low Cost

      To support sustainable exploration and habitation of the moon, we aim to produce quality soil at low cost using in situ resources.

    • Multi-Use Organic Resource

      Soil is a very versatile tool in an astronaut’s toolbox! It can be used to grow food, filter air, recycle waste, and serve as a library of valuable microbes!


    If we want to enable sustainable exploration and habitation on the moon, the utilization of in-situ resources is essential. Simply put, in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) refers to using resources that are locally available at a specific place, like a planet or moon, instead of bringing everything needed from another place, such as Earth. For example, instead of transporting all the necessary supplies from Earth to a space mission, ISRU would involve making use of the materials readily available on the celestial body itself. This is not just fundamental to live and work in space for years or months, but also a blessing for our wallets as sending up supplies to space would cost around $10,000 per kg.

    One resource that is abundantly available on the moon is lunar regolith, the 'soil' or surface material on the Moon. However, unlike Earth soil, lunar regolith is made up of tiny pieces of sharp glass, dust, and toxic metals, devoid of organic matter and nutrients that are essential for the growth of plants.

    Previous research found the following aspects to be missing in lunar regolith:

    • Ability to hold and store nutrients
    • Regulation of pH to support plant growth
    • Capacity to hold water

    As astronauts venture farther into space, relying solely on Earth for life-sustaining resources becomes economically impractical. To address this challenge, we propose transforming lunar regolith into fertile soil using low cost bio-remediation methods. Creating quality soil with in-situ resources brings us one step closer to creating and sustaining a permanent habit on the moon by supporting fresh food production and facilitating water recycling, organic waste composting, and oxygen generation.

    Lunar Regolith [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University]

    Remediation methods

    Building on previous research on space agriculture, we suggest several simple lunar remediation methods addressing previously defined challenges to a degree that can support ecological succession for further autonomous, ecological remediation.

    1. Desiccated Algae: To introduce organic matter to the lunar regolith, dehydrated algae will be added in order to support the ability of the regolith to hold nutrients during watering and buffer swings in pH to maintain the ideal range for nutrient uptake by plants.
    2. Inoculation with Fungi: Generally speaking, fungi are known to be fundamental for the formation, structure, and sustainability of terrestrial soil. We will inoculate the regolith with the plant growth-promoting fungus Penicillium simplicissimum, a fungus that has already demonstrated an ability to colonize lunar regolith and even bioaccumulate toxic metals. By growing into the substrate, it will secrete enzymes that chemically weather the regolith, rounding off sharp edges.

    What do we hope to see?

    To measure our remediation methods conducted on the lunar regolith, we will use and compare two different well-characterized plant models. Arabidopsis thaliana, which has already been used in previous regolith growth studies, and Glycine max, commonly known as the soybean, a food crop suitable for low-nutrient soil. To assess the plant growth, we will be measuring above-ground and below-ground biomass, as well as visual observation of physiological responses to stress.

    Our Lunar Regolith Bioremediation Experiment is the first step for future lunar closed ecosystem research and significantly impacts the sustainability and feasibility of future lunar missions and long-term lunar presence, ultimately bringing us one step closer to planting forests on the moon!

    AI Generated Image


    Funded and hosted by EuroMoonMars, a research initiative by the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG), our experiments will be performed in a Mars-Moon analogue environment in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. 

    Meet the team!

    • Costanza torchia Fungal Biologist
    • Patrick Grubbs Chief Science Officer
    • Lawrence Warnock Biologist
    • Jorge Galvan Lobo Aerospace Engineer
    • Alvaro Ropero Bioinformatician
    • Adam Gelman Biosystems Engineer


    October 2023
    Proposal Submitted

    November 2023
    Experimental Setup

    Mars - Moon Analogue @EuroMoonMars

    November 2023
    Fungus Culture and Microalgae Preparation

    November 2023
    Regolith Inoculation

    December 2023
    Plant Monitoring & Upkeep

    March 2024
    Harvest, Biomass Measurement & Data Analysis