Martian Soil Developed in University of Central Florida on Sale For $20 Per kg
The University of Central Florida (UCF) in the United States (US) has a unique product to sell — experimental Martian and asteroid soil for $20 a kg, plus shipping. For creating the Martian and asteroid soil known as simulants, the researchers developed a scientifically-based, standardized method. The formula that helped the astrophysicists at the university develop the soil is based on the chemical signature of the soils on Mars collected by NASA’s Curiosity Rover.
“The simulant is useful for research as we look to go to Mars. If we are going to go, we’ll need food, water and other essentials. As we are developing solutions, we need a way to test how these ideas will fare,” said Dan Britt, from UCF. Scientists looking for ways to grow food on Mars need to test their techniques on soil that most closely resembles the stuff on Mars.
The artificial Martian soil is modeled upon the iron-rich volcanic ground that blankets the red planet. The researchers published their results in the planetary science journal Icarus. Like any world, Martian soil comes in all sorts of varieties – clays, sand, and salty dirt and the lab plans to use standardized methods to produce consistent simulants, so those preparing for space exploration can run reliable experiments.
It’s not just Mars soil that’s in demand. The lab also sells both moon and asteroid dirt. But there’s no potential human colony as far off as Mars, which on average is about 140 million miles from Earth. Brazen colonizers will almost certainly have to produce their own food, and perhaps make use of Martian soils and minerals to get that job done.
Although the extraterrestrial soil is sure to appeal to space enthusiasts everywhere, its purpose is more for testing potential future techniques to be used by explorers who may reach the planet some day. The new substance will also now provide a standardized scientifically-founded base for researchers to accurately compare experiments.
The team can mimic most ingredients and, better yet, can effectively substitute for any potentially harmful materials ensuring all their simulants meet NASA’s stringent safety standards. There are currently 30 pending orders for the Martian soil including a significant half a ton purchase from none other than the Kennedy Space Center.
But for Britt and Canon, the formula is most interesting for the capacity it has to help accelerate the current desire to explore, analyze and perhaps colonize our vast and crowded solar system. “I expect we will see significant learning happening from access to this material,” Britt concluded.