American Society of Civil Engineers

A Mobility Concept for Martian Exploration

by Nicholas C. Costes, F.ASCE, (Senior Research Scientist, NASA/George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama 35812) and Stein Sture, M.ASCE, (Professor and Chair, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, 80309-0428)
Section: Gravity and Related Effects III, pp. 301-318, (doi:

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: Space 98
Abstract: Soil mechanics and geological investigations on Mars or the Moon are described herein, using a novel mobility system, designated as the "Elastic Loop Mobility System (ELMS)". ELMS was developed as a spin-off of the U.S. Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) which operated on the Moon during the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 Missions. Extensive testing of the ELMS, both on soft soil and on rigid obstacles, has shown that the ELMS outperforms by far both the LRV and the two unmanned, self-propelled Soviet rovers, Lunokhod 1 and 2, which landed on the Moon in the western part of Mare Imbrium, aboard the spacecraft Luna 17 and 21. In this paper, examples of soil mechanics and geological investigations that can be conducted either by an unmanned, self-propelled ELMS rover, or by an ELMS attached to a Martian Lander are discussed, along with the associated instrumentation. Through such investigations, ascertaining the existence of some primitive forms of past or present life on Martian or Lunar geological formations may become possible, in addition to obtaining numerous data on the mechanical and physico-chemical properties of Martian or Lunar soils along long traverses.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Geological surveys
Soil mechanics
Space construction
Space exploration