Design, Test, and Simulation of Lunar and Mars Landing Pad Soil Stabilization Built with in Situ Rock Utilization

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


© 2016 American Society of Civil Engineers. For repeated missions to develop infrastructure on the Moon and Mars, repeated visits to the same location will be required and landing pads will be a necessity. On the Moon these landing pads would prevent the regolith dust from sandblasting other infrastructure at 3 km/s and spreading dust all over the Moon and even into lunar orbit. On Mars the landing pads would prevent the lander exhaust plume from excavating a large hole under the lander, melting possible ice and possibly tipping the lander on its side resulting in damaging the lander. These landing pads would have to be built by robotic means before the human sized missions would arrive. To design these robots, it is necessary to determine what the landing pad could be made of and how they could be constructed. Various ISRU approaches have been suggested and studied for the center zone of the landing pad where the hot hyper velocity exhaust gases would contact the landing pad directly. A landing pad would provide a stable landing zone for touchdown of the lander and effective deflection of the exhaust plume without excavating a hole under the lander. This deflected (now horizontal flowing) plume would still scour the immediate area (secondary zone) next to the central landing zone and pick up the dust particles there. The secondary zone has a much larger surface area that needs to be stabilized and thus it would be beneficial to use in situ materials. Various options can be considered such as sintering, tiles, rock cover, and others. This paper will focus on tests performed on rock stabilized zones and their layering and on a method to model the in situ collected and constructed rock cover needed to lock in the regolith dust. The test setup, several tests and the results will be discussed. In addition, a first order model will be discussed to determine the maximum size rock needed to lock underlying layers in place during landing and take-off rocket exhaust plume loading cases.

Publisher's Statement

© 2016 American Society of Civil Engineers. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Earth and Space 2016: Engineering for Extreme Environments - Proceedings of the 15th Biennial International Conference on Engineering, Science, Construction, and Operations in Challenging Environments