Interpretation of the impact record on Gaspra requires understanding of the effects of collisions on a target body of Gaspra's size and shape, recognition of impact features that may have different morphologies from craters on larger planets, and models of the geological processes that erase and modify impact features. Crater counts on the 140 sq km of Gaspra imaged at highest resolution by the Galileo spacecraft show a steep size-frequency distribution (cumulative power-law index near -3.5) from the smallest resolvable size (150 m diameter) up through the large feature (1.5 km diameter crater) of familiar crater-like morphology. In addition, there appear to be as many as eight roughly circular concavities with diameters greater than 3 km visible on the asteroid. If we restrict our crater counts to features with traditionally recognized crater morphologies, these concavities would not be included. However, if we define craters to include any concave structures that may represent local or regional damage at an impact size, then the larger features on Gaspra are candidates for consideration. Acceptance of the multi-km features as craters has been cautious for several reasons. First, scaling laws (the physically plausible algorithms for extrapolating from experimental data) indicate that Gaspra could not have sustained such large-crater-forming impacts without being disrupted; second, aside from concavity, the larger structures have no other features (e.g. rims) that can be identified with known impact craters; and third, extrapolation of the power-law size distribution for smaller craters predicts no craters larger than 3 km over the entire surface. On the other hand, recent hydrocode modeling of impacts shows that for given impact (albeit into a sphere), the crater size is much larger than given by scaling laws. Gaspra-size bodies can sustain formation of up to 8-km craters without disruption. Besides allowing larger impact craters, this result doubles the lifetime since the last catastrophic fragmentation event up to one billion years. Events that create multi-km craters also globally damage the material structure, such that regolith is produced, whether or not Gaspra 'initially' had a regolith, contrary to other models in which initial regolith is required in order to allow current regolith. Because the globally destructive shock wave precedes basin formation, crater size is closer to the large size extrapolated from gravity-scaling rather than the strength-scaling that had earlier been assumed for such small bodies. This mechanism may also help explain the existence of Stickney on Phobos. Moreover, rejection of the large concavities as craters based on unfamiliar morphology would be premature, because (aside from Stickney) we have no other data on such large impact structures on such a small, irregular body. The eight candidate concavities cover an area greater than that counted for smaller craters, because they are most apparent where small craters cannot be seen: on low resolution images and at the limb on high resolution images. We estimate that there are at least two with diameter greater than 4 km per 140 sq km, which would have to be accounted for in any model that claims these are impact craters.
Lunar and Planetary Inst., Twenty-Fourth Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Part 2: G-M; p 571-572