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Corrosion on Mars: Effect of the Mars Environment on Spacecraft MaterialsThis report presents the results of a one-year project, funded by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Innovation Fund in FY18, to conduct a theoretical study on the effect of the Mars environment on spacecraft materials. Corrosion resistance is one of the most important properties in selecting materials for landed spacecraft and structures that will support surface operations for the human exploration of Mars. Currently, the selection of materials is done by assuming that the corrosion behavior of a material on Mars will be the same as that on Earth. This is understandable since there is no data on the corrosion resistance of materials in the Mars environment. However, given that corrosion is defined as the degradation of a metal that results from its chemical interaction with the environment, it cannot be assumed that corrosion is going to be the same in both environments since they are significantly different. The goal of this research was to develop a systematic approach to understand corrosion of spacecraft materials on Mars by conducting a literature search of available data, relevant to corrosion in the Mars environment. This project was motivated by the suggestion, by a team of researchers, that some of the structural degradation observed on Curiosity's wheels may have been caused by corrosive interactions with the transient liquid brines, reported to be present on Mars, while the most significant damage was attributed to rock scratching. An extensive literature search, on data relevant to corrosion on Mars, confirmed the need to investigate the interaction between materials, used for spacecraft and structures designed to support long-term surface operations on Mars, and the Mars environment. Previous preliminary experiments, designed to look at the interaction between aerospace aluminum alloy (AA7075-T73) and the gases present in the Mars atmosphere, at 20 degC and a pressure of 700 Pa, showed that there is an interaction between the small amount of oxygen present in the Mars gas and the alloy, when there is a scratch that removes the protective aluminum oxide film. Further studies are needed to consider many other important components of the Mars environment that can affect this interaction such as: the presence of brines, the interaction between these brines and materials, the effect of radiation on these interactions, and the possible catalytic effects of the clays present in the Martian regolith. This theoretical study provides strong justification to conduct experimental work to investigate the interaction between spacecraft materials with simulated Martian environments to reduce Mars exploration costs.
Document ID
Document Type
Technical Publication (TP)
Calle, Luz M.
(NASA Kennedy Space Center Cocoa Beach, FL, United States)
Date Acquired
July 12, 2019
Publication Date
June 1, 2019
Subject Category
Metals And Metallic Materials
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
Technical Review
Single Expert
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