A robotic exploration mission that would enter a lunar pit to characterize the environment is described. A hopping mechanism for the robot's mobility is proposed. Various methods of hopping drawn from research literature are discussed in detail. The feasibilities of mechanical, electric, fluid, and combustive methods are analyzed. Computer simulations show the mitigation of the risk of complex autonomous navigation systems. A mechanical hopping mechanism is designed to hop in Earth gravity and carry a payload half its mass. A physical experiment is completed and proves a need for further refinement of the prototype design. Future work is suggested to continue exploring hopping as a mobility method for the lunar robot.
Understanding the structural evolution of planetary surfaces provides key insights to their physical properties and processes. On the Moon, large-scale tectonism was thought to have ended over a billion years ago. However, new Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) high resolution images show the Moon’s surface in unprecedented detail and show many previously unidentified tectonic landforms, forcing a re-assessment of our views of lunar tectonism. I mapped lobate scarps, wrinkle ridges, and graben across Mare Frigoris – selected as a type area due to its excellent imaging conditions, abundance of tectonic landforms, and range of inferred structural controls. The distribution, morphology, and crosscutting relationships of these newly identified populations of tectonic landforms imply a more complex and longer-lasting history of deformation that continues to today. I also performed additional numerical modeling of lobate scarp structures that indicates the upper kilometer of the lunar surface has experienced 3.5-18.6 MPa of differential stress in the recent past, likely due to global compression from radial thermal contraction.
Central pit craters on Mars are another instance of intriguing structures that probe subsurface physical properties. These kilometer-scale pits are nested in the centers of many impact craters on Mars as well as on icy satellites. They are inferred to form in the presence of a water-ice rich substrate; however, the process(es) responsible for their formation is still debated. Previous models invoke origins by either explosive excavation of potentially water-bearing crustal material, or by subsurface drainage of meltwater and/or collapse. I assessed radial trends in grain size around central pits using thermal inertias calculated from Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) thermal infrared images. Average grain size decreases with radial distance from pit rims – consistent with pit-derived ejecta but not expected for collapse models. I present a melt-contact model that might enable a delayed explosion, in which a central uplift brings ice-bearing substrate into contact with impact melt to generate steam explosions and excavate central pits during the impact modification stage.
On Mars, sedimentary deposits reveal a complex history of water- and wind-related geologic processes. Central mounds – kilometer-scale stacks of sediment located within craters – occur across Mars, but the specific processes responsible for mound formation and subsequent modification are still uncertain. A survey of central mounds within large craters was conducted. Mound locations, mound offsets within their host craters, and relative mound heights were used to address various mound formation hypotheses. The results suggest that mound sediments once filled their host craters and were later eroded into the features observed today. Mounds offsets from the center of their host crater imply that wind caused the erosion of central mounds. An in depth study of a single central mound (Mt. Sharp within Gale crater) was also conducted. Thermal Emission Imaging System Visible Imaging Subsystem (THEMIS-VIS) mosaics in grayscale and false color were used to characterize the morphology and color variations in and around Gale crater. One result of this study is that dunes within Gale crater vary in false color composites from blue to purple, and that these color differences may be due to changes in dust cover, grain size, and/or composition. To further investigate dune fields on Mars, albedo variations at eight dune fields were studied based on the hypothesis that a dune’s ripple migration rate is correlated to its albedo. This study concluded that a dune’s minimum albedo does not have a simple correlation with its ripple migration rate. Instead, dust devils remove dust on slow-moving and immobile dunes, whereas saltating sand caused by strong winds removes dust on faster-moving dunes.
On the Moon, explosive volcanic deposits within Oppenheimer crater that were emplaced ballistically were investigated. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Diviner Radiometer mid-infrared data, LRO Camera images, and Chandrayaan-1 orbiter Moon Mineralogy Mapper near-infrared spectra were used to test the hypothesis that the pyroclastic deposits in Oppenheimer crater were emplaced via Vulcanian activity by constraining their composition and mineralogy. The mineralogy and iron-content of the pyroclastic deposits vary significantly (including examples of potentially very high iron compositions), which indicates variability in eruption style. These results suggest that localized lunar pyroclastic deposits may have a more complex origin and mode of emplacement than previously thought.
Water has shaped the surface of Mars, recording previous environments and inspiring the search for extinct life beyond Earth. While conditions on the Martian surface today are not conducive to the presence of liquid water, ancient erosional and depositional features indicate that this was not always so. Quantifying the regional and global history of water on Mars is crucial to understanding how the planet evolved, where to focus future exploration, and implications for water on Earth.
Many sites on Mars contain layered sedimentary deposits, sinuous valleys with delta shaped deposits, and other indications of large lakes. The Hypanis deposit is a unique endmember in this set of locations as it appears to be the largest ancient river delta identified on the planet, and it appears to have no topographic boundary, implying deposition into a sea. I have used a variety of high-resolution remote sensing techniques and geologic mapping techniques to present a new model of past water activity in the region.
I gathered new orbital observations and computed thermal inertia, albedo, elevation, and spectral properties of the Hypanis deposit. I measured the strike and dip of deposit layers to interpret the sedimentary history. My results indicate that Hypanis was formed in a large calm lacustrine setting. My geomorphic mapping of the deposit and catchment indicates buried volatile-rich sediments erupted through the Chryse basin fill, and may be geological young or ongoing. Collectively, my results complement previous studies that propose a global paleoshoreline, and support interpretations that Mars had an ocean early in its history. Future missions to the Martian surface should consider Hypanis as a high-value sampling opportunity.
Jupiter’s moon Europa is an active target of research because of its unique geology and its potential for habitability. Europa’s icy chaos disrupts and transforms the previous terrain, suggesting melting is involved. Chaos occurs alongside several types of endogenic surface features. These microfeatures are under <100 km2 in area and include uplifts and domes, pits, spots, and hybrid features. The distribution of microfeatures is known in the ~10% of the Europa’s surface that are covered by the regional mosaics (“RegMaps”). The efforts to connect microfeature formation to any kind of heat transport in Europa are confounded because microfeatures are difficult to identify outside of RegMaps because of low image resolutions. Finding microfeatures outside of RegMaps would provide new observational constraints for microfeature formation models.
First, I mapped microfeatures across four of Europa’s RegMaps and validated them against other mapping datasets. Microchaos features are the most numerous, followed by pits, domes, then hybrids. Spots are the least common features, and the smallest. Next, I mapped features in low-resolution images that covered the E15RegMap01 area to determine error rates and sources of omission or misclassification for features mapped in low-resolution images. Of all features originally mapped in the RegMap, pits and domes were the least likely to be re-mapped or positively identified (24.2% and 5%, respectively). Chaos, spots, and hybrids were accurately classified over 70% of the time. Quantitatively classifying these features using discriminant function analysis yielded comparable values of accuracy when compared to a human mapper. Finally, nearest-neighbor clustering analyses were used to show that pits are clustered in all regions, while chaos, domes, and hybrids vary in terms of their spatial clustering.
This work suggests that the most likely processes for microfeature formations is either the evolution of liquid water sills within Europa’s ice shell or cryovolcanism. Future work extending to more areas outside of the RegMaps can further refine microfeature formation models. The detection of liquid water at or near the surface is a major goal of multiple upcoming Europa missions; this work provides predictions that can be directly tested by these missions to maximize their scientific return.
Affect is a domain of psychology that includes attitudes, emotions, interests, and values. My own affect influenced the choice of topics for my dissertation. After examining asteroid interiors and the Moon’s thermal evolution, I discuss the role of affect in online science education. I begin with asteroids, which are collections of smaller objects held together by gravity and possibly cohesion. These “rubble-pile” objects may experience the Brazil Nut Effect (BNE). When a collection of particles of similar densities, but of different sizes, is shaken, smaller particles will move parallel to the local gravity vector while larger objects will do the opposite. Thus, when asteroids are shaken by impacts, they may experience the BNE as possibly evidenced by large boulders seen on their surfaces. I found while the BNE is plausible on asteroids, it is confined to only the outer layers. The Moon, which formed with a Lunar Magma Ocean (LMO), is the next topic of this work. The LMO is due to the Moon forming rapidly after a giant impact between the proto-Earth and another planetary body. The first 80% of the LMO solidified rapidly at which point a floatation crust formed and slowed solidification of the remaining LMO. Impact bombardment during this cooling process, while an important component, has not been studied in detail. Impacts considered here are from debris generated during the formation of the Moon. I developed a thermal model that incorporates impacts and find that impacts may have either expedited or delayed LMO solidification. Finally, I return to affect to consider the differences in attitudes towards science between students enrolled in fully-online degree programs and those enrolled in traditional, in-person degree programs. I analyzed pre- and post-course survey data from the online astrobiology course Habitable Worlds. Unlike their traditional program counterparts, students enrolled in online programs started the course with better attitudes towards science and also further changed towards more positive attitudes during the course. Along with important conclusions in three research fields, this work aims to demonstrate the importance of affect in both scientific research and science education.