** Progress in Earth and Planetary Science is the official journal of the Japan Geoscience Union, published in collaboration with its 51 society members.

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    Space and planetary sciences

    Regolith behavior under asteroid-level gravity conditions: low-velocity impact experiments

    Julie Brisset, Joshua Colwell, Adrienne Dove, Sumayya Abukhalil, Christopher Cox, Nadia Mohammed

    Regolith, Low-velocity impacts, Microgravity experiments

    The dusty regolith covering the surfaces of asteroids and planetary satellites differs in size, shape, and composition from terrestrial soil particles and is subject to environmental conditions very different from those found on Earth. This regolith evolves in a low ambient pressure and low-gravity environment. Its response to low-velocity impacts, such as those that may accompany human and robotic exploration activities, may be completely different than what is encountered on Earth. Experimental studies of the response of planetary regolith in the relevant environmental conditions are thus necessary to facilitate future Solar System exploration activities.We combined the results and provided new data analysis elements for a series of impact experiments into simulated planetary regolith in low-gravity conditions using two experimental setups and a range of microgravity platforms. The Physics of Regolith Impacts in Microgravity Experiment (PRIME) flew on several parabolic aircraft flights, enabling the recording of impacts into granular materials at speeds of ∼ 4–230 cm/s. The COLLisions Into Dust Experiment (COLLIDE) is conceptually close to the PRIME setup. It flew on the Space Shuttle in 1998 and 2001 and more recently on the Blue Origin New Shepard rocket, recording impacts into simulated regolith at speeds between 1 and 120 cm/s.Results of these experimental campaigns found that there is a significant change in the regolith behavior with the gravity environment. In a 10 −2g environment (with g being the gravity acceleration at the surface of the Earth), only embedding of the impactor was observed and ejecta production was produced for most impacts at > 20 cm/s. Once at microgravity levels (<10−4g), the lowest impact energies also produced impactor rebound. In these microgravity conditions, ejecta started to be produced for impacts at > 10 cm/s. The measured ejecta speeds were somewhat lower than the ones measured at reduced-gravity levels, but the ejected masses were higher. In general, the mean ejecta velocity shows a power-law dependence on the impact energy with an index of ∼ 0.5. When projectile rebound occurred, we observed that its coefficients of restitution on the bed of regolith simulant decrease by a factor of 10 with increasing impact speeds from ∼ 5 up to 100 cm/s. We could also observe an increased cohesion between the JSC-1 grains compared to the quartz sand targets.