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Daytona Beach


Applied Aviation Sciences

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Numerous unexpected operational issues relating to the abrasive nature of lunar dust, such as scratched visors and spacesuit pressure seal leaks, were encountered during the Apollo missions. To avoid reoccurrence of these unexpected detrimental equipment problems on future missions to the Moon, a series of two- and three-body abrasion tests were developed and conducted in order to begin rigorously characterizing the effect of lunar dust abrasiveness on candidate surface system materials. Two-body scratch tests were initially performed to examine fundamental interactions of a single particle on a flat surface. These simple and robust tests were used to establish standardized measurement techniques for quantifying controlled volumetric wear. Subsequent efforts described in the paper involved three-body abrasion testing designed to be more representative of actual lunar interactions. For these tests, a new tribotester was developed to expose samples to a variety of industrial abrasives and lunar simulants. The work discussed in this paper describes the three-body hardware setup consisting of a rotating rubber wheel that applies a load on a specimen as a loose abrasive is fed into the system. The test methodology is based on ASTM International (ASTM) B611, except it does not mix water with the abrasive. All tests were run under identical conditions. Abraded material specimens included poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA), hardened 1045 steel, 6061-T6 aluminum (Al) and 1018 steel. Abrasives included lunar mare simulant JSC-1A-F (nominal size distribution), sieved JSC-1A-F (μm particle diameter), lunar highland simulant NU-LHT-2M, alumina (average diameter of 50 μm used per ASTM G76), and silica (50/70 mesh used per ASTM G65). The measured mass loss from each specimen was converted using standard densities to determine total wear volume in cm3. Abrasion was dominated by the alumina and the simulants were only similar to the silica (i.e., sand) on the softer materials of aluminum and PMMA. The nominal JSC-1A-F consistently showed more abrasion wear than the sieved version of the simulant. The lunar dust displayed abrasivity to all of the test materials, which are likely to be used in lunar landing equipment. Based on this test experience and pilot results obtained, recommendations are made for systematic abrasion testing of candidate materials intended for use in lunar exploration systems and in other environments with similar dust challenges.


National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Barcelona, Spain

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Conference held July 11-15, 2010.

Dr. Kobrick was not affiliated with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at the time this paper was published.