Application of planetary analog mechanical properties to subsurface geological investigations

by ElShafie, A.; Chevrier, V. F.; Dennis, N.

Investigations of the mechanical properties of planetary analog materials are of great importance to improve future mission success and to enhance our understanding of the history and evolution of planetary surfaces and subsurfaces. Determining the stratigraphy of the subsurface using drills and penetrometers implies knowing the mechanical properties of the regolith. Therefore, we investigated the mechanical properties of Martian regolith analogs (JSC Mars-1 and an unaltered basaltic soil from Mojave desert). Penetration force is dependent on the bearing capacity factor (N-q) and the angle of internal friction which is found to be function of the level of compaction and increases with relative density. The bearing capacity factor (N-q) showed an exponential trend with the angle of internal friction. For Mojave soil, (N-q) increased from 64 to 338 with phi increasing from 32 to 41.3 degrees while (N-q) increased from 161 to 3347 with phi increasing from 39.4 to 54.7 degrees for JSC Mars-1. Based on estimation of the bearing capacity factor and the angle of internal friction, we predicted the force of penetration under the Martian gravity using a 1.2 cm diameter penetrometer. Under a bulk density of 1240 and 1500 kg m(-3) in JSC Mars-1 and Mojave soil, 460 and 200 N is the estimated force to reach a depth of about 20 cm deep. Based on this investigation, distinguishing between different regolith layers on the subsurface of Mars is possible and observable using penetration force.

Planetary and Space Science
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