UCF Sells Experimental Martian Dirt You Can Buy For Just $20 Per Kilogram

Curiosity at Mount Sharp in Mars
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS / Getty Images

For those who want to find out the best crop to grow on Mars, the University of Central Florida is selling Martian dirt, which you can order for just $20 plus shipping.

Humans who will go to Mars need food, water, and other essentials to survive, and scientists are now conducting research to determine how to make this feasible.

Research on how to grow food and what crops can be grown on the Red Planet is particularly important, and scientists have to test ideas using soil that most closely resembles those found on Mars.

Dan Britt, a member of UCF’s Planetary Science Group, and colleagues developed a scientifically based, standardized method to create Martian and asteroid soil called simulant that can be used for these types of studies.

The Mars Global Simulant (MGS-1) in particular can be very helpful in research for future manned missions to the Red Planet. The formula for the simulant is based on the chemical signature of Martian soil samples collected by NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover.

Although there are other soil simulants around, these are not standardized, which means it can be difficult to compare two experiments to each other. The recipe for MGS-1 is based on scientific methods so uncertainty levels can be reduced

Mars Curiosity Rover sampling soil on Mars
  NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS / Getty Images

“Unlike previous simulants sourced from landscaping material, Mars Global is meant to be assembled ab initio from individual components to provide an accurate match to the mineralogy of martian regolith,” Britt and colleagues wrote in the journal Icarus.

“The physical, chemical, spectral and volatile properties of prototype simulants based on MGS-1 are similar to measurements of Rocknest and other soils on Mars, and are an improvement over previous simulants.”

The researchers also said that the recipe can produce many variations. All of the simulants can be made in the lab and meet the safety standards of NASA.

The researchers said that most of the minerals needed for the simulated Mars dirt are available on Earth albeit some are very difficult to obtain.

The team, fortunately, decided to make things a little easier for those who need the simulant for research by making it available for sale.

At $20 per kilogram, plus shipping, ordering a simulant from UCF is easier than making it from scratch.

The team already has 30 pending orders, one of which is from the Kennedy Space Center for half a ton of lab-made Martian dirt. It appears that there is indeed a market for the simulant.