Excavatability of Lunar and Martian Regolith: Initial Laboratory Tests on JSC-1 Simulants


Returning to the Moon and going on to Mars will require the use of local resources to bring launch masses and costs to feasible levels. Attention is focused on mining regolith containing water ice and/or implanted hydrogen ions. Trenches, foundation pits, etc. also will be excavated in the regolith. Effective design of tools for these tasks requires a thorough understanding of regolith behavior. Therefore, in Phase I of a NASA Small Business Innovation Research grant, the force- penetration behaviors of frozen, compacted samples of JSC-1 lunar and JSC-1 Mars regolith simulants were measured at water contents from zero to 22%. A 19 mm-diameter hemispherical indenter was forced into each sample while the required force, the resulting penetration, and the fragmented volume were measured. The results show that as water ice content increases to saturation, the penetration depth needed to cause failure decreases, the fragmented volume decreases, and the required force increases. The highest strength mix (approximately saturated) behaves like strong limestone or sandstone. This paper discusses the test procedures, differences between the test parameters and in situ conditions, and the results. Additional tests are underway for Phase II.

Meeting Name

41st U.S. Symposium on Rock Mechanics, USRMS (2006: Jun. 17-21, Golden, CO)


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Foundation Pits; Hydrogen Ions; In-Phase; In-Situ; Indenters; Laboratory Test; Launch Mass; Martian Regolith; Penetration Behavior; Penetration Depth; Phase II; Small Business Innovation Researches; Test Parameters; Test Procedures; Water Ice; Insect Control; Mining; Moon; NASA; Rock Mechanics; Termite Proofing; Testing; Water Content; Water Resources; Rocks

Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


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© 2006 American Rock Mechanics Association (ARMA), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jun 2006