Curiosity arrives at Martian dune

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Close-up of Martian dune

Curiosity has arrived at the first Martian dune ever observed up close and has begun its investigation.

The image above is a cropped version of a close up image showing the sand ripples on the surface of the dune. The press release also includes an amazing very very very close-up image of the pock-marked grain-covered surface. [link fixed]


  • steve mackelprang

    Link to the image appears to broken?

  • Todd Brown

    Bob, why cant we go to areas on Mars where there is evidence of ice/water?
    Seems silly and an absolute waste of money to go to secondary and tertiary areas.
    Please explain.
    Todd Brown

  • Todd,

    Your question is puzzling, as it has been the goal of every rover that NASA has ever launched to Mars to land in areas where there is past evidence of the presence of water. Curiosity itself landed inside Gale Crater expressly because orbital images of Gale strongly suggested that the crater had once been filled with water.

    The present side trip to the dunes is simply to take advantage of a great opportunity to learn something else about the Martian environment. Curiosity is also a rover, which gives it the ability to move about and pick and choose targets. Its main goal is to climb Mt Sharp, the central peak in Gale Crater, to track the layers and obtain a time history of the crater’s geology, including the water of its past. Along the way it certainly makes sense to look at everything they see, including dunes.

    So, nothing “silly or an absolute waste of money” is going on here. No one can accuse me of not attacking NASA for its waste of money, but they aren’t doing it here.

  • Steve

    One part of Todd’s question is interesting, what about exploring the ice caps?

    We had the Phoenix Lander arrive near enough to the ice cap so that it didn’t survive the weight of ice buildup on its solar panels during the Martian winter, correct?

    If there is ice at the poles, why not have a rover or another lander analyze the ice and prove once and for all the presence of existing water on Mars. Maybe I missed something and Phoenix already did that??

  • Steve

    Nevermind. I should have done my homework before posting:

    On July 31, 2008 (sol 65), NASA announced that Phoenix confirmed the presence of water ice on Mars, as predicted in 2002 by the Mars Odyssey orbiter. During the initial heating cycle of a new sample, TEGA’s mass spectrometer detected water vapor when the sample temperature reached 0 °C.[52] Liquid water cannot exist on the surface of Mars with its present low atmospheric pressure, except at the lowest elevations for short periods.

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