Regolith Subsurface Exploration Testbed (R-SET)

Principal Investigator: Douglas D. Cortes, Ph.D.
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico State University, Civil Engineering Department

Description: The subsurface of Mars and the Moon store a wealth of resources ranging from basic human necessities such as water (in the form of ice) to propellants such as methane (in the form of hydrates). While subsurface sampling and testing on earth is relatively simple, there is a need for relatively large and heavy surface equipment to provide the necessary reaction force to drive testing probes into the ground. Emulating earthworms, the research team is developing a new generation of self-excavating subsurface characterization tools that are both light and small, so they could easily be transported to the moon and Mars. Funding for this proposal would allow the team to develop an instrumented regolith subsurface exploration testbed in which the earthworm-inspired devices can be tested under controlled laboratory conditions. As part of this project a 55-gallon cylindrical test bed capable of accommodating probes up to 4 in in diameter will be instrumented with acoustic emission sensors and peripheral electronics to monitor the regolith response during penetration. This project will also be leveraged to secure additional funding for the acquisition of a modular loading frame to accommodate the 55-gallon cell and to double the current testing depth range. Upon completion of this project New Mexico will have a platform from which to launch new research efforts in the field of self-excavating robots for terrestrial and extraterrestrial subsurface exploration.

Curriculum Development in Digital Photogrammetry

Principal Investigator: Ahmed F. Elaksher, Ph.D.
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico State University, Department of Engineering Technology and Survey Engineering

Description: The New Mexico State University Department of Engineering Technology and Surveying Engineering (ETSE) is seeking funding assistance from the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium (NMSGC) Education Enhancement Program to meet the following objectives during the 2020-2021 grant fiscal year:

  • Develop one technical required course: Digital Photogrammetry. The course is a required class in the curriculum of the current Bachelor of Geomatics and also serve as an elective class for other degrees. Course resources including lecture presentations, assessment activities, and hands-on instructions for applied laboratories and projects will be designed and prepared.
  • Benefit faculty in developing their professional career and enrich departmental
    inventory by procurement supplies required for developing and delivering the class material.
  • Support the growth of digital photogrammetry in the geomatics curriculum.
  • The grant will allow for supporting undergraduate student(s) via assistantship and training to prepare class material on the topic of photogrammetry mapping.
  • Offer new opportunities for under-represented populations in engineering by
    developing their knowledge and technical skills in digital photogrammetry.

Enhancing the Capstone Design Experience for Materials Students: Micro-Particle Accelerator for Testing Impact of Space Surfaces and Coatings

Principal Investigator: Paul Fuierer, Ph.D.
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering

Description: Damage to orbiting satellites and structures from high velocity (~ 10 law’s) micrometeoroids is a major concern to NASA, international space agencies and commercial spaceflight companies. The Pl has proposed thick ceramic coatings fabricated by the unique dry aerosol deposition process as an alternative means of protection from these impacts. Orbital in-space flight testing and existing hypervelocity test sites (e.g. White Sands Missile Range) are prohibitively expensive for preliminary experiments; thus, it is imperative to have an alternative facility for rapid and affordable impact testing at NMT. The proposed EEG grant will enable, with the Pl’s instruction and leadership, senior students in the Materials Engineering Department at NMT to design and build prototype apparatus to accelerate micro­particles to high speeds, and guide them toward target coupons with experimental protective coatings. This EEG grant will support two student teams in developing competing designs: One using an explosive charge accelerator; the other a solid propellant shotgun design. This project will constitute the lab component of the required capstone engineering design course sequence, MTLS 481&L, and 482&L. Learning objectives include high levels of student I) familiarity with the design process, II) satisfaction with project outcome, III) competence in planning and carrying out an engineering project, and IV) confidence in communicating results to a critical audience. Resulting prototype(s) will provide unique high-velocity ballistics testing for research, and also exciting demonstrations of space materials and applications for STEM outreach. The Energetic Materials Research & Testing Center at NMT will provide additional expertise and cost share.

Mission Specific Design of Structural Materials for Radiation Environment

Principal Investigator: Ashok K. Ghosh, Ph.D.
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Description: Lead, aluminium, and tantalum are the conventional radiation shielding materials that NASA uses to protect its astronauts and sensitive electronics during space missions. These metals are heavy and they function as passive shields and are susceptible to emitting secondary-radiation. To avoid the deficiencies associated with heavy metals, this grant’s proposed Fluid Filled Cellular Composites (FFCC) that not only performs better in radiation environment, but has other desirable characteristics including acoustic isolation, impact resistance, and thermal
management. The goal of this proposal is to catalog each aspect of the FFCC and other NASA qualified materials using a Monte Carlo simulation code. Using this catalog, NASA material designers will be able to optimize mission specific radiation shielding structural materials that will be lightweight and cost less compared to conventional materials. Based on a preliminary simulation analysis using primary radiation, secondary radiation, density and cost as parameters, it was found that FFCC will be 1.54 time and 1.8 times more effective as a shielding material than Aluminum and Tantalum respectively. The goal of the proposed project will be accomplished in 12 months and during this time a close collaboration with scientists/engineers at NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) will be established. We will be able to provide the material design that can be used to construct working and living structures on Earth or at any space destination using in-situ regolith. Follow up studies will include modeling of the failure modes and fracture toughness of FFCC and other NASA qualified materials.

Space Science & Engineering: Materials Under Extreme Dynamic Tension

Principal Investigator: Seokbin Lim, Ph.D.
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Description: The dynamic tension fracture has brought much interest in various engineering applications ranging from the simple pressure vessel/pipe failure or dynamic fragmentations in the commercial/space/military applications, to the hypervelocity space debris or planetary impact. There has been a great improvement in the similar area of study by many researchers, but the question regarding the fundamental mechanism of extreme tension physics remains unanswered.
There has been much research on shock physics where the extreme dynamic compression of materials is considered. This research focuses only on the dynamic compressive nature of materials because of the dominance of compressive shock effects in the given materials, lacking detailed information concerning the extreme tension side. As a result, the conventional shock Hugoniot is only about the positive (or compressive) side of the material behavior, and there is little (or no) information about the negative (or tension) side of Hugoniot in public domain (Spall is driven by the compressive shock, and it is not considered here). This project aims to understand the material behavior under the extreme dynamic tension (up to several km/s of pulling speed) followed by necking/fractures. In more details, an investigation of the extreme dynamic tension theory based on the conservation equations will be performed. Then, it will be evaluated by a series of numerical simulations, hoping to provide a scientific clue to understand the fundamental of the extreme dynamic tension. Once the formal theory is validated, it will be applied to understand the unique wave pattern during extreme tension.

Safe and Augmented Human-Robotic Interaction for Space (SAHRIS)

Principal Investigator: Fernando Moreu, Ph.D.
Affiliation/Dept.: University of New Mexico, Department of Civil, Construction and Environment Engineering

Description: Current researchers are interested in new designing interfaces to optimize human-robotic interfaces. AR allows for a rich learning experience, including interactivity, immediate feedback, immersion in an authentic context, and engagement in authentic tasks. Multiple systematic reviews found a positive impact of AR on learning outcomes, including motivation, satisfaction, engagement, attitude, and so on. However, research also found limitations of AR, such as limits on the complexity of the learning environment, usability issues, extra cognitive load added to the learners, and instructional design challenges . To date, the linkage between AR and HRI has not been fully studied. This project seeks to increase the human robot interface using AR in the context of space operations, and more specifically for the augmented interface in real time with increased safety. The PI, an Assistant Professor from the University of New Mexico (UNM) and will collaborate with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering to: (1) increase human cognition of robot operations; (2) enable new control of robots; (3) increase the ability to solve problems faster with increased operations across time and space, and (4) increase safety for humans when collaborating with robots.

Cell Culture Systems for Space Neuroscience Research

Principal Investigator: Elba Serrano, Ph.D.
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico State University, Department of Biology

Description: This research is undertaken with the long-term goal of evaluating the impact of spaceflight on the nervous system. The project is motivated by the fundamental need to better understand how living organisms respond to sustained altered gravity environments, and by emerging concerns about the potentially adverse effect of prolonged spaceflight on human cognitive function. Outcomes will be relevant for research in space and gravitational biology that is in alignment with the mission of NASA Ames Space Biosciences at Moffett Field. The approach will leverage two NASA Ames resources: the open data repository, GeneLab, and the legendary Ames long-arm centrifuges for hypergravity research. The 12 month project work plan will be accomplished in collaboration with Ames research scientist, Dr. Sigrid Reinsch. The project aims are: (1) to increase resources for neural high-throughput transcriptomic and lipidomic data analysis in NASA GeneLab, and (2) to establish tissue culture protocols for animal and human cell lines that can be adapted for hypergravity experiments on the Ames 20-g Centrifuge. The observed changes in white matter in the brains of human astronauts warrants proposed research that will evaluate the lipid profiles of the neuroglial cells of the central nervous system. The project will build the national STEM workforce through inclusion of NMSU students and will broaden participation by engaging faculty, staff, and students who are underrepresented minorities and/or women in space biology research. Outcomes support the NASA mission described in the Space Biology Science Plan (2016-2025) and are expected to provide pilot data in support of future agency proposals.

Silicon Detectors that Multiply Charge: a Strategy for Radiation Hardness in Extra-Terrestrial Applications

Principal Investigator: Sally Seidel, Ph.D.
Affiliation/Dept.: University of New Mexico, Department of Physics and Astronomy

Description: Silicon sensors have proven effective as detectors of charged particles up to fluences on the order of 2 x 10″16 neq/cm”2. This fact, combined with their low mass, compactness, and mechanical robustness, suggests that their applications to exploration of extra-terrestrial environments will continue to expand. They are already in use in radiation monitors on Mars, in solar particle event detectors, and in human dosimetry. Their radiation lifetime is presently limited by charge trapping which, beyond the realm of 10″16 neq/cm”2, prevents regions of the bulk farther than a few tens of microns from the electrode from contributing to the signal. We are exploring a technology in which controlled multiplication of charge is initiated in silicon detectors through a design that combines very small inter-electrode separations with field shaping structures that inhibit breakdown. We propose to measure the charge collection efficiency of prototype devices before and after exposure to protons and gammas, for several design variations. Preliminary pre-irradiation measurements have established the measurement technique and yielded interesting results. Post-irradiation measurements will be made at temperatures below -10°C, as silicon leakage current, a primary contributor to noise, depends strongly upon temperature. The deliverable will be a report on the properties of these devices and a plan for expanding into collaboration with NASA on mission-specific applications.

Micromechanics of Defects in Additively Manufactured Materials

Principal Investigator: Igor Sevostianov, Ph.D.
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico State University, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Description: The project aims at the development of a quantitative model for prediction of mechanical performance of materials produced by Additive Manufacturing (AM) technologies. Additive Manufacturing is increasingly used in the development of new products from conceptual design to functional parts and tooling. However, variability in part quality due to technological defects limits its broader acceptance for critical applications. According to NASA, Materials development and characterization and Modeling and control are among the main challenges for AM use in space [1]. One of the main challenges on this way is the lack in micromechanics based quantitative methods to estimate the damage in structural elements, produced during the technological process, from the point of view of mechanical performance and thus make structural life predictions based on the knowledge of microstructural information – volume content and shapes of the micropores and microcracks appeared during the manufacturing. In the proposed seed research, we suggest to develop such a model supported by computer simulations and experiments. The research is directly applicable to the topics of particular interest of NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate [2]. The objectives of the proposed research are:

  • Develop a solid theoretical background for in-situ mechanical performance evaluation and
    life prognosis of AM manufactured parts using electrical conductivity measurements.
  • Contribute to and strengthen New Mexico aerospace engineering educational and
    research programs at NMSU.
  • Develop nationally competitive research expertise and research programs in the proposed
    and related areas in preparation for obtaining follow-up research funding.