MARTIAN REGOLITH SIMULANT
Martian regolith simulant (or Martian soil simulant ) is a terrestrial material that is used to simulate the chemical and mechanical properties of Martian regolith for research, experiments and prototype testing of activities related to Martian regolith such as dust mitigation of transportation equipment, advanced life support systems and in-situ resource utilization.
After the Viking landers and the Mars Pathfinder's rover landed on Mars, the onboard instruments were used to determine the properties of the Martian soil at the landing sites. The studies of the Martian soil properties led to the development of JSC Mars-1 Martian regolith simulant at NASA's Johnson Space Center in 1998. It contained palagonitic tephra with a particle size fraction of less than 1 millimeter. The palagonitic tephra, which is glassy volcanic ash altered at low temperature, was mined from a quarry at the Pu'u Nene cinder cone . The studies of the cone, which is located between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea in Hawaii , indicate that the tephra is a close spectral analog to the bright regions of Mars. When the original supply of JSC Mars-1 ran out, there were needs for additional material. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center contracted Orbital Technologies Corporation to supply 16 metric tons of lunar and Martian simulants. The company also made an additional eight tons of Martian simulant available for other interested parties to purchase. However, as of 2017 JSC Mars-1A is no longer available. After milling to reduce its particle size, JSC Mars-1A can geopolymerize in alkaline solutions forming a solid material. Tests show that the maximum compressive and flexural strength of the 'martian' geopolymer is comparable to that of common clay bricks.
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