University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rocket engine exhaust during lunar landings can blow away a large amount of lunar regolith causing damage to nearby hardware and the landing spacecraft itself. The complex physics governing this behavior is not well understood making it hard to predict and mitigate its effects. Professor Villafane’s team will use a multi-stage approach to address this issue, in which advanced image and data processing tools, statistical models, and modern machine learning algorithms are combined. The team will extract the most relevant quantities of interest for cratering, erosion, and ejecta from the large volume of parametric experimental data, and to use them to derive simple closed-form models of rocket plume – surface interaction phenomena.