Acta Geotechnica

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 429–442 | Cite as

Sampling of Mars analogue materials in a laboratory environment

  • Norbert I. KömleEmail author
  • Patrick Tiefenbacher
  • Craig Pitcher
  • Lutz Richter
  • Tim Tattusch
  • Robert Paul
Research Paper


Two laboratory test series were performed with the aim of ensuring the proper functionality of the key sampling mechanisms installed aboard the Mars rover ExoMars, currently scheduled for launch in 2020 by the European Space Agency ESA. In order to facilitate the chemical analysis of the Martian ground accessible to the ExoMars drill, the retrieved drill cores must first be milled. This task is performed by a crushing station (CS), which delivers the milled product to a dosing device (PSDDS). From there the material is distributed further to the various analysis instruments mounted on the rover. The first test series was performed with a mock-up of crushing station and dosing device under simulated Martian pressure and temperature conditions. As a worst-case scenario, crushing of frozen soil mixtures was performed and the milling products were collected in the dosing station before being further distributed. In the second test series, granular analogue materials equivalent to the milled products obtained in previous tests were stored for periods of several days in the input funnel of the dosing device. The set-up included a regulation valve through which water vapour was streamed into the vacuum chamber to create a water vapour-saturated atmosphere. The purpose of this series of tests was to investigate if the presence of water can cause cementation of the samples, and how this subsequently affects the operation of the crushing and distribution devices. Our results indicate that the milling device works very well with the current design both for loose and for hard block-like materials, e.g., chunks of frozen soil. It was also found that milled material, when subjected to a water-saturated atmosphere, does not experience any cementation.


ESA ExoMars mission Mars Soil cementation Soil sampling devices 

Supplementary material

11440_2018_668_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (8.4 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 8574 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norbert I. Kömle
    • 1
    Email author
  • Patrick Tiefenbacher
    • 1
  • Craig Pitcher
    • 2
  • Lutz Richter
    • 3
  • Tim Tattusch
    • 3
  • Robert Paul
    • 3
  1. 1.Space Research InstituteAustrian Academy of SciencesGrazAustria
  2. 2.STAR Lab, Surrey Space CentreUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK
  3. 3.OHB Systems AGWeßling-OberpfaffenhofenGermany

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