Off Planet Research makes simulated moon dirt by the bagful. (Off Planet Research Photo)
Wanna buy some fake moon dirt? Off Planet Research, which manufactures loads of the stuff, is making it available for public consumption — as long as you don’t actually consume it.
The research facility in Lacey, Wash., specializes in making types of soil that simulate what’s found on the lunar surface. Off Planet mixes up blends of earthly ingredients, including crushed rock, so that students and scientists can learn how humans and their hardware would fare in the lunar environment.
Two main varieties of lunar simulants are on the menu: a dark-colored blend that reflects the composition of the lunar lowlands, or maria, and a lighter-colored type of soil that mimics the moon’s highlands.
Off Planet also makes a frosty concoction that blends water ice and soil, based on findings from NASA’s LCROSS impact experiment. That simulant, known as OPRFLCROSS1, can be used to test equipment designed to extract water on the moon.
To ensure quality control, Off Planet typically rents its soil blends rather than selling them. Institutional users pay a monthly charge of $300 per kilogram (2.2 pounds) for the stuff, said Lauren Roux, ...