Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering

Committee Director

Robert L. Ash

Committee Member

Colin P. Britcher

Committee Member

Shizhi Qian


Critical to the future exploration of Mars is having a detailed understanding of the atmospheric environment and its potential dangers. The dust devil is one of these potential dangers. The transport of dust through saltation is believed to be the driving mechanism responsible for Martian weather patterns. The two primary mechanisms for dust transport are dust storms and dust devils. Dust devils on Mars are a frequent occurrence with one in five so called giant dust devils being large enough to leave scars on the surface that are visible from space. Due to the thin atmosphere, winds of 60 mph would feel more like 6 mph terrestrial winds; however, the saltation of dust particles could pose a threat to structures and equipment. Materials for permanent structures and equipment will need to be abrasion resistant, and the possible solenoidal effects of the columnar vortices, such as triboelectric charging and induced magnetic fields, will need to be well understood. Thus, it would be useful to have a method of quantifying the physical properties of Martian dust devils.

This work has endeavored to provide such a method by employing an improved Rankine vortex model developed by Ash, Zardadkhan, and Zuckerwar (2011, 2013) which agreed well with terrestrial field measurements. Atmospheric differences between Earth and Mars are profound and limited or incomplete in situ data for Martian dust devil events presented a challenge when applying the Ash-Zardadkhan-Zuckerwar method; however, through an inclusive representation of the atmosphere, its thermodynamic properties, and proven scientific inferences of other necessary atmospheric properties, this work has developed a useful tool to aid in the safe advancement of large-scale planetary exploration.


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