Inferring Thermal and Mechanical Properties of Celestial Bodies Regolith Using (Simple) Low-Tech Tools

February 12 – September 30, 2013
California Institute of Technology - Pasadena, CA 91125

Final Report

Project Overview:

This program aims to develop and test new tools and algorithms for in-situ characterization of thermal and mechanical properties of regolith on celestial bodies such as asteroids, planets, and moons. The new tools and algorithms will be used onboard a landing vehicle to assess properties of regolith including friction angle, dilatancy, thermal conductivity, and specific heat. The primary objective will be to obtain as many engineering and scientific properties with simple low-tech tools such as wheels, masses, awls, small shovels, and soldering irons. These tools and related post-processing algorithms will provide clues about the nature of fundamental morphological processes on celestial bodies by providing crucial mechanical properties. The goal of this project has also a significant impact on mission cost and success, where minimizing energy, eliminating high-tech equipment failure, and optimizing functionality and data extraction are the key issues to tackle and overcome.

Paper Published: Jerves, A., Ling, H., Gabaldon, J., Usoltceva, M., Couste, C., Agarwal, A., Hurley, R., Andrade, J. (2015). "A Simple Device for in-situ Direct Shear and Sinkage Tests." World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, International Journal of Mechanical, Aerospace, Industrial and Mechatronics Engineering Vol:9, No:3, 2015. (206 KB pdf) 

Team Members:

  • Jose Andrade (Caltech, Faculty Mentor)
  • Mariia Usoltceva (MIPT)
  • Ankit Agarwal (West View High)
  • Christopher Cousté (Caltech)
  • Alex Jerves (Caltech, Study Lead)
  • Henry Ling (Columbia University)
  • Joaquin Gabaldon (Caltech)
  • Ryan Hurley (Caltech)