Just a handful of land costs up to 9 billion USD, making it difficult for the super rich to buy it because of its rarity. So, what type of soil is this?
The land that is considered the most expensive in the world is Martian dust. Because according to experts, just a handful of Martian dust can be auctioned for up to 9 billion USD. This can be considered the most expensive dust particle in the Milky Way.
Martian dust is incredibly valuable because it will take up to a decade, billions of dollars and three space missions to get it to Earth.
Specifically, on July 30, 2020, a disposable Atlas V rocket was launched from the Earth’s surface to Mars. The cost for a rocket launch is about 109 million USD. Furthermore, the rocket carries the Perseverance probe and the Ingenuity unmanned helicopter. This flight lasted about 7 months.
Simulation of the Perseverance spacecraft on Mars. (Photo: Reuters).
On February 18, 2021, the Atlas V rocket finally reached its destination. Accordingly, the landing module carrying the probe and small helicopter entered the atmosphere of Mars. According to experts, this complex moves at a speed faster than sound and they are protected by a heat shield to keep the valuable robots inside from burning due to high temperatures.
After successfully landing on the surface of Mars, the Perseverance spacecraft began the process of collecting samples, and officially carried out the mission of bringing back the most expensive dust particles known to humans in history to Earth.
Ingenuity helicopter simulation on Mars. (Photo: NASA).
Getting Martian dust back to Earth is not easy
In fact, this phase has been underway for a long time on Earth. The Perseverance ship carries 43 titanium tubes. Each of these tubes can hold a soil sample the size of a little finger.
Specifically, while preparing these tubes in the laboratory on Earth, scientists blew some air through the tubes and then soaked them in a tank filled with acetone and other chemicals. This is to ensure there are no bacteria left inside. The tubes are then placed in an oven heated to 300 degrees F for 29 hours.
Once the Perseverance collects samples in these tubes, they can be stored there for at least 10 years. Meanwhile, lunar soil samples stored in sealed containers can only be preserved for 10 days. Researchers are eager to detect signs of living organisms within these soil samples.
In photos taken by the Perseverance spacecraft, NASA revealed the location to build the first warehouse of alien samples on Mars. (Photo: NASA).
In addition, another goal of the Perseverance spacecraft is to test technology that can create oxygen right on Mars. To do this, MOXIE, which stands for Mars Oxygen In Situ Resource Utilization Experiment.
This is a small tool on Perseverance, NASA’s Mars rover. MOXIE is an instrument led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is designed to convert CO2, a gas that makes up about 96% of the Martian atmosphere, into oxygen for humans to breathe. This is extremely important for the mission to send people to Mars.
If this technology is successful, it will be replicated 200 times. In this way, scientists will create enough oxygen for astronauts to breathe and enough fuel for rockets to be launched back to Earth.
Therefore, NASA’s $2.7 billion probe (including design, construction and maintenance costs) will collect soil and rock samples until 2023. However, this ship will leave sealed tubes containing samples right on the surface of Mars.
Nearly a decade later, they will be collected. When it comes to sampling, NASA will need another rover. Of course, a new mission will cost several billion dollars to develop. After that, it will take the spacecraft up to 7 months to reach Mars, and there will be another complicated landing.
The entire sample collection mission is expected to last about five years. New samples, once collected and brought back to Earth, will be ready to be studied and humans will eventually find out whether there is life on Mars or not?
Furthermore, studying soil and rock samples on Mars can help scientists find or decode a series of mysteries related to this planet. This is also the reason why dust samples on Mars cost up to 9 billion USD.