NASA Mars Rover Curiosity Reaches Sand Dunes

The rippled surface of the first Martian sand dune ever studied up close fills this Nov. 27, 2015, view of "High Dune" from the Mast Camera on NASA's Curiosity rover. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The rippled surface of the first Martian sand dune ever studied up close fills this Nov. 27, 2015, view of “High Dune” from the Mast Camera on NASA’s Curiosity rover. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

December 12, 2015 – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has begun an up-close investigation of dark sand dunes up to two stories tall. The dunes are on the rover’s trek up the lower portion of a layered Martian mountain.

The dunes close to Curiosity’s current location are part of “Bagnold Dunes,” a band along the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp inside Gale Crater. Observations of this dune field from orbit show that edges of individual dunes move as much as 3 feet (1 meter) per Earth year.

The rover’s planned investigations include scooping a sample of the dune material for analysis with laboratory instruments inside Curiosity.

A wheel track left by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover exposes underlying material in a shallow sand sheet in this Dec. 2, 2015, view from Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A wheel track left by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover exposes underlying material in a shallow sand sheet in this Dec. 2, 2015, view from Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity has been working on Mars since early August 2012. It reached the base of Mount Sharp in 2014 after fruitfully investigating outcrops closer to its landing site and then trekking to the mountain. The main mission objective now is to examine successively higher layers of Mount Sharp.