Christine Hartzell

Computational Modeling of Spacecraft-Regolith Interactions

Personal Website

Where is she NOW? - Assistant Professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Maryland

"To date, the design of exploration vehicles’ means of interacting with the surfaces of solar system bodies has been based on an experimental understanding of terramechanics. As the targets of future robotic and human exploration expand to more exotic bodies, such as asteroids with very low surface gravities, it will be necessary to design spacecraft based on computationally modeled interactions with the surface, since it will be virtually impossible to create relevant surface environments in a terrestrial laboratory. We propose to create a numerical ‘sandbox’ where the interaction of a single wheel or shovel with the surface regolith can be modeled. In a computational simulation, we will be able accurately model the cohesive and electrostatic interactions of the grains, vary the grain size distribution, include varying levels and directions of surface gravity, and determine the effect these variables on the efficacy of wheels and scoops. Additionally, we will translate spacecraft observations of surface properties into characteristics of the modeled regolith." (May 2012)

Selected Publications


Hartzell, X. Wang, D. Scheeres, M. Horanyi. “Experimental Demonstration of the Role of Cohesion in Electrostatic Dust Lofting” Geophysical Research Letters. 2013. Vol 40, doi: 10.1002/grl.50230.

Hartzell, D. Scheeres. “Dynamics of Levitating Dust Particles Near Asteroids and the Moon” Journal of Geophysical Research. 2013. Vol 118, pp 116-125.


Hartzell, D. Scheeres. “The Role of Cohesive Forces in Particle Launching on the Moon and Asteroids” Planetary and Space Sciences. 2011. Vol 59, pp 1758-1768.


Scheeres, C. Hartzell, P. Sánchez, M. Swift. “Scaling Physics to Asteroid Surfaces: The Role of Cohesion” Icarus. 2010. Vol 210, pp 968-984.


Masiero, C.M. Hartzell, D.J. Scheeres. “The Effect of the Dust Size Distribution on Asteroid Polarization” The Astronomical Journal. Dec. 2009. Vol 139, pp 1557-1562.