Scientists have created experimental Martian dirt that closely resembles the soil on Mars. This development could help scientists find ways to grow food on the red planet. Researchers from University of Central Florida (UCF) in the US developed a scientifically based, standardised method for creating Martian and asteroid soil known as ‘simulants.’
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The researchers’ formula is based on the chemical signature of the soils on Mars collected by the 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.
Like Earth, 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.
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Researchers believe there is a market for the simulant. At $20 a kilogram, plus shipping, it may be easier to send UCF an order, than to try and make it in labs. The team already has about 30 pending orders, including one from Kennedy Space Centre in the US for half a ton, UCF said in a statement this week.