UCF Astrophysicists Create 'Recipe' For Martian Dirt

Oct 2, 2018

A team of scientists at the University of Central Florida is making fake Mars dirt and they’re selling it to agencies like NASA.

The simulated Mars dirt is called regolith, and the team of astrophysicists at UCF is using a recipe of various minerals to match the real thing. Scientist will use the regolith to test equipment for future Mars explorations and to figure out how to grow food on Mars.

UCF physicist and geologist Daniel Britt said the team used data from the Mars Curiosity rover to create the regolith. “What we do is we take what we know about the mineralogy of other worlds – it’s not just Mars, we do the moon and asteroids – and we develop formulas and recipes, a pinch of this and a dash of that, to match the mineralogy on these other worlds.”

He says by having a well-defined recipe and consistent product, scientists can get better results. “The goal is to get as realistic and hi fidelity a simulation as possible as to what the surface on an extraterrestrial body is like and use them for scientific and engineering purposes.”

UCF students are working with the team to crush and mix the regolith. “For someone who has always loved space science, this is the ultimate cool,” said Cody Shultz, a mechanical engineering senior working on the regolith. “The experience is fantastic in terms of the real world, out-of-this-world experience.”

The product sells for about $20 a kilogram, plus shipping. UCF said there’s about 30 pending orders for the simulated regolith.