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The University of Central Florida is selling Martian dirt, $20 a kilogram plus shipping.
This is not fake news. A team of UCF astrophysicists has developed a scientifically based, standardized method for creating Martian and asteroid soil known as simulants.
Team - Findings - Month - Journal - Icarus
The team published its findings this month in the journal Icarus.
"The simulant is useful for research as we look to go to Mars," said Physics Professor Dan Britt, a member of UCF's Planetary Sciences Group. "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."
Example - Scientists - Ways - Food - Mars—cue
For example, scientists looking for ways to grow food on Mars—cue the Martian movie—need to test their techniques on soil that most closely resembles the stuff on Mars.
"You wouldn't want to discover that your method didn't work when we are actually there," Britt said. "What would you do then? It takes years to get there."
UCF - Formula - Signature - Soils - Mars
UCF's formula is based on the chemical signature of the soils on Mars collected by the Curiosity rover. Britt built two calibration targets that were part of Curiosity rover. Researchers currently use simulants that aren't standardized, so any experiment can't be compared to another in an apples-to-apples kind of way, Britt said.
As a geologist and a physicist, he knows his dirt. Like a recipe, the ingredients can be mixed in different ways to mimic soil from various objects, including asteroids and planets. And because the formula is based on scientific methods and is published for all to use, even those not ordering through UCF can create dirt that can be used for experiments, which reduces the uncertainty level.
Kevin - Cannon - Paper - Author - Researcher
Kevin Cannon, the paper's lead author and a post-doctoral researcher who works with Britt...
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