JSC-Rocknest: A large-scale Mojave Mars Simulant (MMS) based soil simulant for in-situ resource utilization water-extraction studies

1J.V.Clark,2P.D.Archer,3J.E.Gruener,3D.W.Ming,2V.M.Tu,3P.B.Niles,4S.A.Mertzman
Icarus (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2020.113936]
1GeoControls Systems, Inc – Jacobs JETS Contract at NASA Johnson Space Center, 2101 NASA Pkwy, Houston, TX 77058, USA
2Jacobs JETS Contract at NASA Johnson Space Center, 2101 NASA Pkwy, Houston, TX 77058, USA
3NASA Johnson Space Center, 2101 NASA Pkwy, Houston, TX 77058, USA
4Department of Earth and Environmental, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA 17604, USA
Copyright Elsevier

The Johnson Space Center-Rocknest (JSC-RN) simulant was developed in response to a need by NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) project for a simulant to be used in component and system testing for water extraction from Mars regolith. JSC-RN was designed to be chemically and mineralogically similar to material from the aeolian sand shadow named Rocknest in Gale Crater, particularly the 1–3 wt% low temperature (<450 °C) water release as measured by the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument on the Curiosity rover. Sodium perchlorate, goethite, pyrite, ferric sulfate, regular and high capacity granular ferric oxide, and forsterite were added to a Mojave Mars Simulant (MMS) base in order to match the mineralogy, evolved gases, and elemental chemistry of Rocknest. Mineral and rock components were sent to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in Denver for mixing. Approximately 800 kg of JSC-RN was sent back to NASA in 5 gal buckets, which were subsampled and characterized. All samples of the USGS-produced simulants had similar evolved gas profiles as a small prototype batch of JSC-RN made in JSC laboratories, with the exception of HCl, and were similar in terms of mineralogy and total chemistry. Also, all JSC-RN subsamples were homogenous and had similar mineralogy, total chemistry, and low-temperature evolved gas profiles as the Rocknest aeolian sand shadow examined with Curiosity‘s instrument suite on Mars. In particular, the low temperature water releases were similar and the amount of water evolved from JSC-RN at <450 °C was similar to the water content of Rocknest based on SAM water peak integrations. Overall, JSC-RN is ideally suited for ISRU studies of water extraction of global martian soil due to its excellent agreement with measured properties of martian soils and its proven feasibility for large-scale production.

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