After a bit of editing, NASA’s Curiosity snaps a panoramic view of Mars made out of several images that display the Red Planet’s intricate beauty. It’s mostly a barren land of dunes and rock, but it’s infinitely fascinating and of great interest to NASA researchers. Every bit of information could be useful.
The Curiosity rover is slowly making its way around the Martian surface. Since its landing in August 2012, it has been working up the base of Mount Sharp, and trekking along to investigate the rocky and sandy surfaces. Curiosity will soon travel up the Martian mountain, but has first directed its attention to the Bagnold Dunes.
This group of sandy dunes could provide exceptional information for NASA regarding the wind patterns across the foreign planet. Their goal is to properly study its activity in an environment where neither the gravity nor the atmosphere is the same as it is on Earth. There are sand falls, tiny avalanches that have deemed the Martian surface as ‘active’.
The dunes move 1 yard per year
In fact, NASA stated that the dunes migrate one yard (or meter) per each year on our planet. After analyzing sequential shots taken annually, they found that the sands are indeed moving.
These events are far more frequent in the Martian summers than the late-fall currently ongoing. However, Curiosity has managed to snap a few pictures that show such recent slides across the Namib Dune. The stunning panoramic view is just one of the many that is helping NASA scientists better understand what a crew will be facing in the 2030s. Every bit of information, from the formation of the rocks to the pattern of the winds will be useful.
The space agency is gathering data, analyzing the planet, snapping pictures, collecting samples, and currently investigating the Bagnold Dunes through the Curiosity rover. Next, it will be venturing up Mount Sharp, and, hopefully, reveal images of what is hiding behind the peak that has been the center focus of its landing area.
The 2030 manned Mars mission might not happen
In spite of the new information and stunning images, there is a chance that all the data will not be enough to assure a safe manned mission to Mars. According to Inspector General of NASA, Paul K. Martin, the space agency is not ready yet to face the dangers of the Red Planet. There are several hurdles that they might not be able to pass, even until 2030.
According to Martin, NASA is a little too optimistic about setting the Mars mission only 14 years away. There are risks for the crew, which will include space radiation, heightened risk of cancer, affected vision, along with many other behavior problems due to prolonged isolation and space travel. All will have to be rigorously tested in order to make sure a crew of people will safely return.
Image source: jpl.nasa.gov