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Strength and deformation properties of basaltic lava flows on planetary surfacesBasaltic rocks are thought to constitute a volumetrically significant rock type on the Moon, Mercury, Mars, and Venus, in addition to the Earth. Spacecraft images of surfaces with known or suspected basaltic composition on these bodies, particularly on Venus, indicate that these rocks have been deformed in the brittle regime to form faults and perhaps dilatant cracks, in addition to folding and more distributed types of deformation. Predictions of brittle fracture or other types of deformation are made by comparing calculated stresses from a tectonic model to some criterion for rock strength. Common strength criteria used in the planetary science literature for near-surface deformation include a Griffith tensile-strength criterion for intact rock, a Mohr envelope for intact basalt, and a brittle strength envelope based on Byerlee's law of rock frictional resistance. However, planetary terrains of basaltic composition consist of much more than just intact basaltic rock. The aggregate basaltic material, termed the 'rock mass,' consists of both the intact rock and the associated fracture, faults, lithologic contacts, and other discontinuous surfaces. A basaltic rock mass is the relevant material for which strength properties must be defined and calculated model stresses must be compared to in order to more accurately predict brittle deformation. For example, the various strengths of a rock mass are less than that of intact material of the same composition. This means that tectonic models which compare stresses to intact failure strengths overestimate the stresses required for fracture and so underestimate the extent and magnitude of brittle deformation predicted in these models. On the other hand, rock mass shear strength can be greater than that predicted from Byerlee's law. The concept of rock mass strength is central to many engineering design studies in which calculated stresses are used to predict brittle fracture, and this experience indicates that brittle strength envelopes which assume properties for intact rock (Griffith parabolas) or sliding along a single, continuous surface (Byerlee's law) inadequately characterize the tensile, compressive, and shear strengths of rock masses. The criterion adopted here to relate stresses to rock mass fracture is based on a Griffith-type curve for tensile normal stress and a concave downward curve for compressive normal stress. It is the only available criterion that explicitly considers the weakening effects of discontinuities within the rock mass on the stress state required for fracture.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Schultz, Richard A. (Nevada Univ. Reno, NV, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1993
Publication Information
Publication: Lunar and Planetary Inst., Twenty-Fourth Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Part 3: N-Z
Subject Category
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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