University of Central Florida is selling fake Martian dirt

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Researchers performing experiments needing soils can order them ready to go from UCF or make their own using the formula that Britt and UCF have published. The intention for this fake Mars soil is to allow scientists and researchers to test their theories on things like farming before astronauts reach the planet. It would be impossible to send enough food to last a colony years on the surface of Mars so the team will need to be able to grow their own food.

The University of Central Florida (UCF) has announced it is selling Martian dirt for $20 a kilogram plus shipping.

"The simulant is useful for research as we look to go to Mars", says Physics Professor Dan Britt, a member of UCF's Planetary Sciences Group. As we are developing solutions, we need a way to test how these ideas will fare.

"With this technique, we can produce many variations", Cannon said.

This new UCF dirt is as close to the real Martian deal as one can get.

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For creating the Martian and asteroid soil known as simulants, the researchers developed a scientifically based, standardised method.

The formula that helped the astrophysicists at the university develop the experimental Martian soil is based on the chemical signature of the soils on Mars collected by NASA's Curiosity rover, according to a study published in the journal Icarus.

"You wouldn't want to discover that your method didn't work when we are actually there".

The team are getting quite a catalogue of soil simulants, with asteroid and moon simulants also available to order. He admits that some minerals needed are very hard to obtain. There are now 30 pending orders for the Martian soil including a significant half a ton purchase from none other than the Kennedy Space Center.

"I expect we will see significant learning happening from access to this material", Britt said.

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