Soil and Jump drive only – No growth chamber
Our Version Of ALRS-1 Australian Lunar Regolith Simulant is a man made soil that is used to simulate the chemical and mechanical properties of Lunar regolith for research and experiments
The original ALRS-1 Australian Lunar Regolith Simulant was developed By the University of New South Wales.
Using published soil analysis we formulated our own version of ALRS-1 Australian Lunar Regolith Simulant for students to use in science fair projects.
Lab made simulants will never be perfect copies of extraterrestrial regoliths especially Martian regolith because no samples have ever been returned to earth.
Our version of these simulants are made from powdered chemical elements, silica sand, crushed glass and a type of crushed basalt from the Jurassic Beds of Texas.
Because of the way our simulants are made there are ” well – simulated properties” and there are “Poorly-simulated properties” represented in my regoliths.
Well – simulated properties – Means that this element of the regolith mimics the original planetary regolith.
Poorly-simulated properties – Means that this element of the regolith is close to the original planetary regolith but is not an exact match of the rover analyses.
Some of the physical regolith properties will not be well represented in our simulants.
Well-simulated properties in my regoliths:
Bulk chemistry: We use dry chemicals and mix them by percentages of weight of the original published analysis. Our stimulants are a chemical match to the original rover analysis.
Volatile release. We have calculated the released gases from our simulants during heating. Our Martian simulant accurately captured the total amount of water released compared to the reference materials. Lunar simulants captured less moisture then the martian simulant.
Poorly-simulated properties in my regoliths:
Particle shape. We do not control the particle shapes in our simulants. Most of the processing involves course and fine silica sand, basalt, and crushed glass, going though a series of sieves, but the particle shapes may still not be course enough to 100% mimic lunar regolith.
Oxidation and weathering. Our simulants contain the percentages of ferric iron that is listed in the published data, however it is not sourced from any crushed rock so the amount of oxidation and weathering effects are unknown.
Trace elements and isotopes. We do not try to simulate trace elements, REEs, or isotopes in the regoliths
Hazardous components. Alamo Space Dirt simulants are made to be safe with adult supervision. we do not include perchlorates or other super oxide species in our simulants.
Reactivity. Extraterrestrial regolith may quickly react or change if exposed to a humid, oxygen-rich environment . Because we make the simulants on Earth, they are already equilibrated with the atmosphere, and adsorb only minor amounts of water vapor in humid conditions.
In experiments testing how well crops grow on other planets, I have managed to harvest 10 crops, including tomatoes, peas, and rye, from regolith that mimics the conditions on Mars and the Moon
Although my Mars-equivalent soil produced slightly fewer crops than regular Earth soil, the difference wasn’t huge, suggesting that, in the right conditions, early settlers might be able to sustainably feed themselves with crops grown on the Red Planet. The dream of a Martian colony just got a little bit closer.
I also grew the same 10 crops – tomato, rye, radish, pea, leek, spinach, garden rocket, cress, quinoa, and chives – in my soil that mimicked Moon regolith, and showed that these crops were about half as successful as Mars crops, with spinach in particular struggling in the lunar environment.
My studies only mimicked regolith on Mars and the Moon, and not the rest of their conditions – such as the harsh space radiation, or the bitter heat and cold.
The crops were grown in a plastic greenhouse under Earth’s atmosphere, with stable humidity, light, and temperature because we expect that first crop growth on Mars and Moon will take place in underground rooms to protect the plants from the hostile environment.
Finally, the most crucial results of these experiments is determining whether these plants are safe to eat – The regoliths may contain heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and mercury and also a lot of iron, If the components become available for the plants, they may be taken up and find their way into the fruits, making them poisonous.
I personally have not eaten any crops I have grown because I do not have the lab equipment to test the plants for heavy metals. NASA, on the other hand, has done research into these same ten plant verities and have published their results on their website.
Despite the limitations, it’s still pretty exciting to know that regolith on the Red Planet is capable of growing our food crops – because there’s nothing more comforting when you’re millions of kilometers from home than fresh vegetables.
Related NASA Programs Links
ISS National Lab
Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)
International Space Station
JSC Advanced Life Support Office (pdf)
NASA Space Life Sciences
National Space Biomedical Research Institute(NSBRI)
NASA Astrobiology Roadmap
NASA Strategic Plan
National Academies Space Studies
NASA Research and Funding Opportunities
NASA Johnson Home
NASA Ames Research Center
NASA Kennedy Research Center
NASA Marshall Research Center
NASA Glenn Research Center
NASA Technical Standards Program
Organizations and Miscellaneous Resources
National Air and Space Museum
Orbital Sciences Corporation
American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology (ASGSB)
Orbital Technologies Corporation (Orbitec)
Paragon Space Development Corporation
Westminster Butterfly Pavilion
Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Adventures of the Agronauts
Youtube Space Lab
Keywords to search for:
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The Mark Watney Potato Project
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