Curiosity Rover Spots Sand Ripples Made by Winds on Mars

As humanity’s robot rovers continue to roll over and scan the surface of Mars, we continue to see the Red Planet in unprecedented detail. In a new video released by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Curiosity rover shows an up-close look at sand ripples on the Martian surface. They seem surreal when you consider Martian winds blew them into their smooth, familiar pattern.

JPL recently posted the new, incredible view of Mars’ surface to its YouTube channel. The research center notes that Curiosity is currently exploring Mount Sharp, a five-mile-tall mountain within the basin of the Gale Crater. That is the 100-mile-wide crater in the northwestern part of the planet home to bizarre rocks and beautiful sunsets.

In the video above, JPL shows a panorama view of the Gale Crater, highlighting the wind-swept sands. And that’s among several other geological features of the sandy surface that make Mars feel more like home. (A reality that could come to fruition this decade if companies like SpaceX have their way.)

A stretch of dark gray sand dunes on the reddish rocky surface of Mars.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

As the narrator notes, the dark ripples are sands consisting of broken bits of volcanic rock. Martian winds, while low in density— Mars’ atmosphere is super thin—are high enough in velocity to play with particles, shaping them like little dunes just like those on Earth. For reference, Martian winds can gust at up to 70 miles per hour. Although, again, the atmosphere’s low density means the winds are exceptionally weak.

Curiosity recorded this panorama of images on July 3, 2021, the 3,167th Martian day of its mission. The rover’s now been on the planet for nine years and seems like it could continue on indefinitely. Although NASA does need to maneuver its rovers around the actual sand dune patches. As is the case on Earth, and Tatooine, Martian sand is rough and course and gets everywhere… Seriously though, it could be catastrophic for the mission.

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