Economic Geology of Lunar and Asteroid Resources Seminar: Apr 20

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Lecturer: Kevin Cannon, University of Central Florida

Dr. Kevin Cannon is a planetary scientist and postdoc at the University of Central Florida, coming from Brown University where he earned his Ph.D. in Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences.

His research interests include the formation and evolution of planetary materials, remote sensing using visible and near-infrared spectroscopy, and space resources & space development. Dr. Cannon is actively involved in work with private space companies to develop architectures for asteroid and lunar mining activities.

He also founded the Exolith Lab, the world’s foremost laboratory for producing and distributing regolith simulants. These materials are being used for a host of applications including extracting and processing space resources.

Topic: Simulating Lunar, Martian and Asteroid Regoliths

Recorded talk:

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Actual samples of planetary materials are exceedingly precious and rare, and this is especially true for regolith. We have a modest amount of lunar regolith, but no martian regolith samples, and just ~1,500 micron-sized grains of S-type asteroid regolith from Itokawa. Clearly this sample suite is not sufficient for developing and testing technology related to space resources.

For many decades, scientists and engineers have relied on simulated planetary materials (“regolith simulants”) as stand ins for applications ranging from rover traction to oxygen extraction from regolith. Usually these were low-fidelity materials made of a single terrestrial rock type crushed into a powder. Armed with increasingly sophisticated data on planetary materials, we now have the ability to create more and more realistic simulants: but at what cost?

In this seminar we will: (1) review the unique properties of extraterrestrial regolith and how it differs from Earth materials; (2) discuss the design principles that go into developing and testing simulants; and (3) critically evaluate the shortcomings of simulants and what this might mean for space resource applications.

Readings (Required for UCF students) :

Click links for PDFs

Taylor et al. 2010. Evaluations of lunar regolith simulants. PSS.

Ming and Morris 2017. Chemical, Mineralogical, and Physical Properties of Martian Dust and Soil. Dust in the Atmosphere of Mars Conference.

Cannon et al. 2019. Mars global simulant MGS-1: A Rocknest-based open standard for basaltic martian regolith simulants. Icarus.

Recommended Readings:

Britt et al. 2019. Simulated asteroid materials based on carbonaceous chondrite mineralogies. MAPS.