As we all know, one of the most important breakthroughs of this year is the much awaited landing on Mars. Since then, NASA naturally is trying to exploit and discover as much as possible about the red planet. This is why they are going to set out their rover, Curiosity to explore Mars’ sand dunes. Although some dunes have already been investigated by NASA rovers in the past, this will be the first attempt at exploring an active dune on another planet.
In the next few days, Curiosity will be investigating the Bagnold Dunes, located in the northwestern part of the Mount Sharp. The dunes take their name from Ralph Bagnold, a British military engineer and dune explorer. Since the Bagnold Dunes occupy a very wide area, the rover will check out one dune that is approximately as big as a football field and about two stories high. Moreover, NASA officials have reported that the dunes are active which means they are moving up to 3 feet per year.
The exploratory mission will take place in order to help determine the composition of the sandstone ridges that are made from dunes turned into rock. Besides, it will also allow scientists to keep track almost in real time of the dunes’ activity on Mars. When Curiosity gets to the Bagnold Dunes, it will collect samples of sand for analysis as it is equipped with an onboard instrument and it will also inspect the differences between different sand layers by scraping the sand.
The reason why scientists are so interested in the dunes on Mars is that they are very different from the ones on Earth. To be more exact, they have a different texture, their ripples being much larger and researchers are trying to find out why.
Curiosity has been on Mars since August 2012, when it was sent to determine whether the planet could support microbial life. The answer was an affirmative one and rover went on exploring the Red Planet, reaching the base of Mount Sharp on September 2014 and is now going up the Mountain to reach the dunes and studies on its way how Mars’ rocks have changed over time due to environmental conditions.
In conclusion, NASA is getting closer to finding out more about this planet and we keep our fingers crossed for Curiosity to explore Mars’ Sand Dunes successfully.
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