Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 11:20 AM


WILLIAMS, David A., School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287,

The Planetary Aeolian Laboratory (PAL), supported by NASA’s Planetary Geology and Geophysics (PG&G) program, is a unique facility used for conducting experiments and simulations of aeolian processes (windblown particles) under different planetary atmospheric environments, including Earth, Mars, and Saturn’s moon Titan. With the death of PAL founder Ronald Greeley in 2011, there is concern in the planetary aeolian community whether the PAL will be maintained for future use by planetary scientists. This presentation will review the PAL facilities, what are their current capabilities, how can interested scientists propose to NASA to use them, and what are the long-term plans for their continued use.

The PAL includes one of the nation’s largest pressure chambers for conducting low-pressure research. The primary purpose of the PAL is to enable scientific research into aeolian processes under controlled laboratory conditions, and enable testing and calibration of spacecraft instruments and components for NASA’s solar system missions, including those requiring a large volume simulated Martian atmosphere. The PAL consists of: 1) the Mars Wind Tunnel (MARSWIT) and 2) Titan Wind Tunnel (TWT) located in the Structural Dynamics Building (N-242) at the NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) in Mountain View, California and administered by Arizona State University. Also available (although not officially part of the PAL facilities) is: 3) an ambient pressure/temperature wind tunnel (ASUWIT) and 4) a vortex (dust devil) generator (ASUVG) on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University (ASU), which is part of the ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) and the Ronald Greeley Center for Planetary Studies. The TWT just came online in June 2012, and upgrades are underway to both the hardware and software of the MARSWIT and ASUWIT. Long-term plans are for ASU to continue to manage these facilities, to make them as capable as possible, so that they may be useful resources to NASA and the aeolian community for many years to come.