Life is tough for a humble grain of dirt on the surface of the Moon. It's peppered with cosmic rays, exposed to solar flares, and battered by micrometeorites--shattered, vaporized and re-condensed countless times over the billions of years. Adding insult to injury, Earthlings want to strip it down to oxygen and other elements for "in situ resource utilization," or ISRU, the process of living off the land when NASA returns to the Moon in the not-so-distant future.
Living with moondust and striping it down may be trickier than anyone supposes. To find out how tricky, researchers would like to test their ideas for ISRU and their designs for lunar rovers on real lunar soil before astronauts return to the Moon. However, such testing requires tons of lunar material. Since large quantities of lunar material aren't available here on Earth, researchers at NASA's Space Flight Center are working on developing material which simulates lunar material.