Apollo 11: Soil Mechanics Results

by Nicholas C. Costes, (M.ASCE), Staff Sci.; NASA Marshall Space Flight Ctr., Huntsville, AL,
William D. Carrier, III, (A.M.ASCE), Geophysics Branch, Lunar and Earth Sci. Div., NASA Manned Spacecraft Ctr., Houston, TX,
James K. Mitchell, (M.ASCE), Prof. of Civ. Engrg.; Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA,
Ronald F. Scott, (M.ASCE), Prof. of Civ. Engrg.; California Inst. of Technol., Pasadena, CA,

Serial Information: Journal of the Soil Mechanics and Foundations Division, 1970, Vol. 96, Issue 6, Pg. 2045-2080

Document Type: Journal Paper


Data were extracted from astronaut observations, television coverage of the moon walk, and returned photographs and samples. It has been determined that the upper few centimeters of the lunar soil in the vicinity of Tranquility Base are characterized by a brownish, medium-gray, slightly cohesive granular soil composed largely of bulky grains in the silt to fine sand size range, with angular to subrounded rock fragments ranging up to 1 m in size distributed throughout the area. The lunar surface at this site is soft to depths of 5 cm to 20 cm, below which the resistance to penetration increases considerably. Although the soil differs considerably in composition and range of particle shapes from a terrestrial soil of the same particle size distribution, it does not appear to differ significantly in its mechanical behavior. The soil, while basically frictional in behavior, exhibits a small amount of cohesion and strong adhesive properties. Preliminary estimates of the in situ soil density gave a value of 1.6 g per cu cm.

Subject Headings: Lunar materials | Soil properties | Granular soils | Particle size distribution | Soil mechanics | Moon | Data collection | Photography

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