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Curiosity to Check Out Dark and ‘Active’ Mars Dunes

NASA’s Curiosity corsair will shortly get history’s initial up-close demeanour during Martian silt dunes.

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Curiosity is headed toward a dim Bagnold Dunes, that distortion in a northwestern foothills of a soaring Mount Sharp, and should start questioning a sandy underline in a subsequent few days, NASA officials said.

PHOTOS: Mind-Blowing Beauty of Mars’ Dunes

The Bagnold Dunes are substantial; Curiosity will examine one dune that’s as far-reaching as a football margin and as high as a two-story building, NASA officials said. And they’re active; observations by Mars orbiters uncover that some of a dunes are relocating by as most as 3 feet (1 meter) per year. [?Amazing Mars Rover Curiosity's Latest Photos]

“We’ve designed investigations that will not usually tell us about complicated dune activity on Mars though will also assistance us appreciate a combination of sandstone layers done from dunes that incited into stone prolonged ago,” Bethany Ehlmann of a California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, both of that are located in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.

While Mars rovers have visited sandy swales in a past, no active dunes (which underline slopes high adequate for silt to slip down) have ever been complicated adult tighten on a universe over Earth, NASA officials said.

PHOTOS: The Psychedelic Landscape of Mars

When Curiosity reaches a Bagnold Dunes — that a goal group informally named after British troops engineer, path-finder and dune researcher Ralph Bagnold (1896-1990) — a corsair will collect samples for research by a onboard instrument apartment and scratch during a silt with a circle to examine differences between a aspect and subsurface.

“These dunes have a opposite hardness from dunes on Earth,” Nathan Bridges, of a Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, pronounced in a same statement.

“The ripples on them are most incomparable than ripples on tip of dunes on Earth, and we don’t know why,” combined Bridges, who leads a formulation for Curiosity’s dune work along with Ehlmann. “We have models formed on a reduce atmosphere pressure. It takes a aloft breeze speed to get a molecule moving. But now we’ll have a initial event to make minute observations.”

ANALYSIS: Mapping Mars’ Ripples Unveils Dune Mysteries

The 1-ton Curiosity rover overwhelmed down inside Mars’ outrageous Gale Crater in Aug 2012, on a $2.5 billion goal to establish if a Red Planet could ever have upheld microbial life. The drudge fast answered that doubt in a affirmative, anticipating that Gale harbored a habitable lake-and-stream complement in a ancient past.

The 3.4-mile-high (5.5 kilometers) Mount Sharp rises from a core of Gale Crater. Curiosity reached a mountain’s bottom in Sep 2014 after a 14-month drive, and a corsair is now operative a approach solemnly adult a mountain, reading a story of Mars’ changing environmental conditions in a rocks as it goes.

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