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I am interested in conducting a research project involving the design of a tool to aid astronauts to perform experiments on lunar surfaces, but I am having difficulties coming up with appropriate key words or questions to ask to begin my research. The specific scenario of focus is to design a tool that can act as an anchor in a sand-like medium on the surface of the moon; the goal is to design a tool with a method to dig/lodge/bury itself underneath the soil surface in a way such that removing the tool requires a maximal load. The research I will conduct is for the purpose of selecting an optimal geometry for the tool (i.e. my initial concept is a helical drill). As this phase of my project, I will assume the design will be rely on geometry alone, however, I may also incorporate applied forces within the tool in some way (i.e. pneumatics) to aid anchoring. I am interested in this topic in order to submit a proposal to the NASA Micro-g NeXT challenge (you can see their webpage for more details). Is this design problem related to fluid mechanics, and if so, what sub-discipline of fluid mechanics is concerned with modelling the behavior of dry, granular media such as sand?

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  • $\begingroup$ I would say tribology plays a big role here. Altough im sure civil engineers have their own branches for this. $\endgroup$ – joojaa Jul 13 '16 at 5:16
  • $\begingroup$ I'm a little confused as to what you are doing. My understanding is: you will place an object on the surface of the moon. You will then cover it in sand (presumably the sand forming a heap). You will then try and pull up the object, and you want to know how much vertical load it can take before it pulls out of the sand? Please clarify (by editing the question if you can't comment). $\endgroup$ – AndyT Jul 13 '16 at 14:02
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Your problem doesn't fit neatly into one field of engineering.

Adhesion and setting of a chemical grout will come under fluid mechanics and possibly mechanical engineering.

A mechanical anchoring device fits into mechanical engineering.

How the soil and/or rock behaves when the anchor is embedded into it will be covered by the field of geomechanical/geotechnical engineering.

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    $\begingroup$ Sounds like pure geotechnics to me, unless I've misunderstood the question (very possible). I don't think the OP ever mentioned "chemical grout", just adhesion - presumably he's talking about friction between sand and his anchor. Also not convinced there's anything mechanical in his anchoring device. Anyway, I've asked OP for clarification; but as first to mention Geotechnics, you get my +1. $\endgroup$ – AndyT Jul 13 '16 at 14:04
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I would say mechanical engineering with specialization in nano-technologies and tribology. On Uni I've had a few subjects covering adhesion like Tribology, Nano-technologies etc. However also physicists and chemical engineers cover this phenomena as well, but only mechanical engineers and partially physicists cover the mechanical aspect of it.

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You seem to be describing a tent peg. This should be in civil engineering or geotechnics. My search phrases would be ground achors for large tents and the like. You could also draw a picture of how your anchor will look like and what forces will act on it and ask for similar use cases, this would give you more ideas.

CE/geotechnics deals with friction on parts embedded in ground and the like, so it should be your friend.

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  • $\begingroup$ If you design for the moon should it be called lunartechnics instead of geothechnics? $\endgroup$ – joojaa Jul 14 '16 at 12:24

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