Physical Interactions of Simple Tools with JSC-1A Regolith Simulant
Creative Commons CC BY 4.0
As part of the NASA IMPACT program to model mechanical interactions with bodies in space such as comets, asteroids, and other Near Earth Objects (NEOs), the Colorado School of Mines team is designing a motor stage apparatus to interact with JSC-1A regolith simulant surfaces. This initial study involved development and testing of a prototype motor stage apparatus which was used to drive three types of probes into JSC-1A surfaces while collecting force data under standard Earth atmospheric conditions. The probes used were a conical-tipped probe, a wedge-tipped probe, and an anchoring probe. Main goals of the prototype system were to acquire general force trends for each interaction, and to isolate the most important design features for a more-complex in-vacuum system. Our data revealed force interactions that were very small in magnitude—on the order of tenths of Newtons—and more complex than our simple stiff beam probe and mount model could accurately predict. Our results lead us to recommend a more complex experimental model that can accurately represent deflection in the probes while also allowing for better measurement of regolith movement near the tip of the probes. Specifically, we recommend the following design features for the in-vacuum system: a load cell capable of measuring at very low ranges (thousandths of Newtons), reliability of structural axis alignment between trials, a robust mounting system that can accommodate each different type of probe, and consistency of sample preparation between trials.