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Project GEO

Geotechnical Engineering
Earth Science Outreach

Dr. Nick Hudyma
The University of North Florida
Bo Smith
Terry Parker High School

Spring 2004 Term Projects

Characterization of a Martian Soil
Last Updated: May 2nd, 2004

We're Caeli and Shaye, the Mars Heads, and we're part of the Spring 2004 UNF project. Our project, as you probably  figured out from our name, has to do with Mars and its soil. Last Saturday (2/28/04), we started our project by characterizing the soil using a simulated Mars soil based on data from the Viking space probe. . We used a computer microscope called 'Digital Blue' to look at the soil grains to try and classify the shape of the soil particles. Some of the characteristics of the Martian soil are: Color; redish-brown, Moisture; Dry, Taste of the fine grains; Gritty (meaning that it is silty compared to clayey), and its grains are magnetic (pretty cool huh?). We are hoping to go back to the lab in a few weeks to contintinue evaluating the physical characteristics of the soil by detrmining the relative particle size by sifting and finally by crushing the grains to see the effecct on  porositity and grain shape and size. So, we'll update you as much as possible to tell you how the project is going as we gather more results.
If you want to know more about the project email Caeli and Shaye.

These are the 'Mars-Heads'
Caeli Hill (left) and Shaye Quackenbush (right)

Image Gallery of Our Project

Saturday, February 28th

Top left: Dr.Hudyma, and the Mars Heads (Shaye on left Caeli on right)  discussing the soil evaluation plan
Top right: Tasting the fine grains to evaluate the grain size (man  that was so awful!), 
Bottom left: Mars Heads and Dr.Hudyma looking at the soil sample using the 'Digital Blue'computer  microscope
                    (We love that thing SOO much!); 

Bottom right: Testing the soil for its  magnetic properties (It was magnetic!)

'Digital Blue' Computer Microscope Images of Mars Soil Simulant
            Upper Left- 10x top lighted                                                Upper Right- 60x top lighted
             Lower Left- Coarse bottom lighted                                    Lower Right- 60x bottom lighted

Saturday, March 13th

Shaye pours the soil into the sifters

Soil sample being sifted to the right
(That is our Digital Blue micrscope and computer set-up)

Caeli uses a brush to get the last bits from the sifter
(Dr. Coulter, Dean of  the College of Computing, Engineering, and Construction observes the process)

Caeli and Shaye weigh one of the sample groups


Caeli inspects one of the sample groups with a 'loop'

Caeli and Shaye save 'Digital Blue' images of samples 

Saturday, 23













   After comppleteing all of our lab sessions, we did a powerpoint presentation for our Honors Earth-Space Science class at Terry Parker High School, explaining our whole project including the process we went through, as well as the conclusion we came to. The conclusion we came to is that the Martian soil is not able to be crushed, but was rather just compacted when put under pressure, meaning that it is very useful and easy to build on. We also found that the grains of the soil were not one certain shape or size but rather varied in each category. We also found that the soil was magnetic not just for a certain size of grain but for the overall soil.  We also found thast the soil was silty by a very unusual testing process called "taste test", which is where you put some  of the fine grains on your tongue and rub them against your teeth, if they are gritty the soil is silty if the grains are not gritty the soil is clay-ey. So in conclusion we have accomplished all we set out to do on this project.And these are the characteristics of Martian soil.