Engineering Professor Lands NASA Grant for Lunar Research

MELBOURNE, FLA.—Mark Archambault, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Florida Institute of Technology, has received a four-year grant of more than $440,000 from NASA HQ, Science Mission Directorate, Planetary Science. Archambault is the principal investigator; his co-investigator is Josette Bellan of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The grant will fund modeling and simulation to better understand the interaction between the rocket plume of a lunar vehicle and the lunar surface. Describing this phenomenon requires extensive modeling of material properties, chemical reactions, particle dynamics, turbulent flow, and thermal and mechanical stresses.

This grant, which follows a previous NASA grant to Archambault, will focus specifically on the models representing the behavior of material that is ejected from the surface, its interaction with the lunar surface and the rocket plume, and where the material comes to rest.

During the Apollo landings on the moon, video showed dust and debris blasting across the lunar surface as the Apollo vehicles landed.NASA needs to better understand this phenomenon in anticipation of return missions to the moon.

Questions exist about the behavior of this flow, where the dust and debris go, and how fast the debris is moving.Such blasting can cause damage to nearby vehicles and structures. If NASA returns to the moon, the more that is known, the better NASA can mitigate the effects of the blasting.While the work is focused on the lunar environment, much of what is learned, and the models that are developed, can apply to the Martian environment in future missions to the red planet.

Ph.D.-level students support the new grant and prior funding.

Archambault’s Ph.D. is from Stanford University.

The grant is through the Lunar Advanced Science and Exploration Research (LASER) program, under the broader 2010 Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) research announcement.

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