Overview of Instruments for Investigating Dust Interactions on Small Solar System Bodies by Landers and Rovers



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44th International Conference on Environmental Systems


Small Solar System bodies such as asteroids, comets and Mars’ moons Phobos and Deimos have relatively unknown regolith environments. It is hypothesized that dust preserved in the regolith on the surfaces will have similar mechanical properties to lunar dust because of similar formation processes from micrometeorite bombardment, low relative gravity for slow settling times, and virtually no weathering because there is no atmosphere. This combination of processes infers that small-body dust particles will be highly angular and retain abrasive properties. The objective of this paper is to provide a comprehensive overview of science instruments that could be utilized by landers and rovers on Small Bodies. The paper uses a specific mission architecture example and engineering design entailing the deployment of “spacecraft/rover hybrids” from a mother spacecraft, which are minimalistic, internally-actuated surface mobility platforms capable of achieving both large surface coverage and fine mobility. Specifically, we first summarize regolith properties are summarized in order to identify technologies that may be useful for exploration in terms of scientific return and spacecraft design. Then, we provide an overview of past, current, and proposed scientific instruments that potentially could be deployed on the aforementioned spacecraft/rover hybrids. Finally, opportunities for instrumentation and hardware payloads are highlighted that include low mass solutions or dual-purpose instruments that can measure regolith or dust properties. Understanding the regolith can help answer many key questions about our solar system’s age, how it was formed, and how we may be able to use its resources to explore further.


The 44th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Tuscon, Arizona, USA on 13 July 2014 through 17 July 2014.
Ryan L. Kobrick, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA
Jeffrey A. Hoffman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA
Kenneth W. Street, Jr, NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC), USA
Douglas L. Rickman, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, USA