‘Martian dirt’ may unveil how to grow space food

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Scientists have created experimental Martian dirt – a simulant that closely resembles the soil on Mars and could help find ways to grow food on the red planet for future human colonies. 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.

“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. The researchers’ formula is based on the chemical signature of the soils on Mars collected by the Curiosity rover.

Researchers believe that there is a market for the simulant. At $20 (Rs 1450 approx.) a kilogram, plus shipping, it may be easier to send UCF an order, than to try and make it in labs across the nation, they said. The team already has about 30 pending orders. The researcher will help accelerate the drive to explore our solar system as demonstrated by investments already being made by Space X, Blue Origin and other private companies.

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