[meteorite-list] Curiosoty Rover Rounds Martian Dune to Get to the Other Side
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 8 Jan 2016 14:19:11 -0800 (PST)
Rover Rounds Martian Dune to Get to the Other Side
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
January 4, 2016
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, partway through the first up-close study
ever conducted of extraterrestrial sand dunes, is providing dramatic views
of a dune's steep face, where cascading sand has sculpted very different
textures than the wavy ripples visible on the dune's windward slope.
Panoramic scenes dominated by the steep face of a dune called "Namib Dune"
are online at these sites:
Researchers are using Curiosity to examine examples of the Bagnold Dunes,
a band of dark sand dunes lining the northwestern flank of Mt. Sharp,
the layered mountain the rover is climbing. A characteristic that sets
true dunes apart from other wind-shaped bodies of sand, such as drifts
and ripples previously visited by Mars rovers, is a steep, downwind slope
known as the slip face. Here, sand blowing across the windward side of
the dune suddenly becomes sheltered from the wind by the dune itself.
The sand falls out of the air and builds up on the slope until it becomes
steepened and flows in mini-avalanches down the face.
The mission's dune-investigation campaign is designed to increase understanding
about how wind moves and sorts grains of sand, in an environment with
less gravity and much less atmosphere than well-studied dune fields on
Earth. The Bagnold Dunes are active. Sequential images taken from orbit
over the course of multiple years show that some of these dunes are migrating
by as much as a yard, or meter, per Earth year.
Curiosity has not caught a sand slide in action, but the rover's images
of the Namib Dune slip face show where such slides have occurred recently.
These dunes likely are most active in Mars' southern summer, rather than
in the current late-fall season.
A few days of rover operations were affected in December due to an arm-motion
fault, diagnosed as a minor software issue. Normal use of the arm resumed
Curiosity has been working on Mars since early August 2012. It reached
the base of Mount Sharp in 2014 after fruitfully investigating outcrops
closer to its landing site and then trekking to the mountain. The main
mission objective now is to examine successively higher layers of Mount
For more information about Curiosity, visit:
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov
Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726 / 202-358-1077
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov / laura.l.cantillo at nasa.gov
Received on Fri 08 Jan 2016 05:19:11 PM PST