Regolith and dust (the smallest fraction of planetary regolith) are ubiquitous in the solar system – on the surfaces of moons and asteroids, as a driver in the Martian surface and atmospheric system, and in planetary ring systems and protoplanetary disks. In all of these environments, there is a complex interplay between the physical properties of the grains and their surrounding conditions. Models of these complex planetary environments are critical to understanding their properties, behavior, and history, as we attempt to understand the physical processes at work on distant worlds. Experiments are also necessary to interpret our observations and to inform the models; however, experiments to understand dust behavior in realistic planetary environments, especially including vacuum and microgravity, is challenging. To address these challenges, we perform experiments in facilities that provide a range of microgravity conditions – from
laboratory drop towers (~1 second) to parabolic flights (~25 seconds of low-gravity), to suborbital flights (~3 minutes), to long-duration experiments on the ISS and CubeSats (months to years). These experiments explore a variety of low-gravity regolith interactions, and I will discuss their motivation and design, as well as challenges and initial results from a series of experiments that have flown over the last couple of years. These flight opportunities are becoming more available and more accessible, so I will also discuss how we can take advantage of them, and what might be on the near horizon.
Dr. Adrienne Dove
Assistant Professor in the Planetary Sciences Group in the Physics Department at the University of Central Florida. She received her BS in Physics from the University of Missouri in 2006, and her PhD in Astrophysical and Planetary Science from the University of Colorado – Boulder in 2012, focused on how planetary surfaces interact with space effects. She came to UCF in 2012 to do postdoctoral research in the Center for Microgravity Research at UCF studying dust dynamics in planetary systems. Her main research interests are in dust charging and dynamics on planetary surfaces, planet formation, and plasma interactions with planetary and spacecraft surfaces. She is particularly interested in these topics because understanding these phenomena is key to successful planetary exploration and will be increasingly important as we continue to explore the Moon and asteroids. She explores these processes through experiments in the Center for Microgravity Research labs at UCF and on research flights (with parabolic aircraft, suborbital vehicles, the International Space Station, and CubeSats).