As getting their hands on real Martian dirt is tricky, scientists decided to create their own and sell it for $20
The red soil, also named Mars “simulant” has been created by University of Central Florida astrophysicists and aims to give researchers a valuable approximation of the actual, real soil present on the Red Planet. This might be tremendously useful for testing the growth of crops and how exploration equipment might manage on the surface.
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has already ordered a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of the soil and paid $20 for it.
“The simulant is useful for research as we look to go to Mars,” said Dan Britt, a researcher in the University of Central Florida’s Planetary Sciences Group, in a statement. “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.”
This artificial soil is modeled upon the iron-rich volcanic ground that covers Mars. Just like any other planet, the Red Planet features a variety of soils such as clays, sand and salty dirt. The laboratory plans to use standardized methods to create consistent simulants so that those getting ready to explore space can run reliable experiments.
However, Mars soil is not the only one that is in demand. Moon and asteroid dirt are also sold by the lab.
“You wouldn’t want to discover that your method didn’t work when we are actually there,” said Britt. “What would you do then? It takes years to get there.”
Here’s an interesting question for you to answer in the comments: What if Mars was initially our home and we ruined it through massive pollution and sent two people on Earth to conquer and populate it?