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The Effects of Lunar Dust on Mechanisms - NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL

The purpose of my last project at NASA was to design and fabricate simple mechanisms for testing efficiency and functionality of these mechanisms over time in a simulated lunar dust environment. As leader of the Lunar Dust Mitigation of Mechanisms (LDMM) project, I was tasked with deciding the scope of the research, designing and fabricating the hardware, and developing a data acquisition system.

Importance of Work
For future mission to the moon and to Mars, one of the major problems to face is the dust in both of those environments. Dust really impacts the functionality of machines by getting into bearings. Thus, developing an experiment to quantify the effects of lunar dust on mechanisms is a first step toward designing effective dust-abatement technology.

Tasks Completed
For this project I completed the following tasks:
- determine the scope of the project
- research previous work
- communicate with colleagues at other NASA centers to understand current work
- design the experimental setup
- develop machining drawings
- oversee machining of the experiemental components
- Select and setup of data acquisition system

Skills Gained
For this project, I spent upwards of 100 hours apprenticing a machinist in my branch’s prototyping lab so that I could fabricate the components of my experiment.  I also became very skilled at Pro Engineer, a 3D modelling software. Finally, I worked heavily with LabVIEW and National Instruments in ordering, configuring, and programming a data acquisition system. In summary, I gained the following skills:

- 3D modeling of mechanical systems
- Machining on the Mill and Lathe
- Design and setup of data acquisition systems

Lessons Learned
I attribute the majority of my engineering abilities to my experience on this project. I developed skills in project management, 3D computer modeling, precision machining, and data acquisition systems. These technical skills can be utilized in developing testing equipment for research, such as the research I will be performing with Rapid Prototyping. I also took away from this project the ability to develop a research plan given a generic problem statement, which is critical for any researcher.

Impact of Work
Overall, I was able to set the stage for a long-term project that could ultimately impact future planetary rover design.


                  During my time at NASA, I had the opportunity to be trained in the machine shop on the mill and lathe. 
(Left) This is a picture of me using an indicator to "zero" in my part. 
(Right) This is a picture of me turning an aluminum bearing-holder on the lathe. 

These are the parts that were made to go into my assembly design. 
I made a few of them  on my own after observing a machinist for many hours.

This is one of the final assemblies. 
The left image is the Pro-Engineer model I created, the right image is the final, machined assembly.