Gravitational Effects on Water in Regoliths

Document Type


Publication Date

April 2010

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Don Plumlee; Dr. James Ferguson; Dr. Bob Hay, Electrical & Computer Engineering Department; and Dr. Barbara Morgan, Distinguished Educator in Residence


This experiment aims to analyze the gravitational effects on water in regolith via AC impedance measurements. It arose from previous testing conducted at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab which yielded a substantial amount of data prompting additional investigation in a reduced gravity environment. After conducting ground tests in Earth gravity (1g), students at Boise State will perform the experiment in lunar gravity (1/6g) as part of the Systems Engineering Educational Discovery Program. The experiment will consist of samples with varying water concentrations: dry (0%), 5%, saturated, and ice. Regolith grain size will be constant at around 175 microns. These samples will be attached to an AC impedance analyzer and swept through a range of frequencies in order to establish a relationship between impedance, frequency, water content, and gravity. Reduced gravity environments can be simulated by flying an aircraft in a series of parabolas. To be considered flight-ready, the entire experimental apparatus must adhere to the design safety requirements specified by NASA. The main areas of focus for our apparatus and our test samples are structural integrity and resistance to rapid decompression. Additionally, the experiment demands all test samples to an isothermal sample environment.

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