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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Dune Buggy
Hugh Bollinger

Dune Buggy

Dune fields approaching Mount Sharp, Mars (credit: Curiosity rover/JPL)


The mobile science laboratory on Mars, the Curiosity rover, has taken on the task of being a Martian dune-buggy. The robotic explorer is slowly trekking up Mount Sharp at the center of Gale Crater. It stopped to explore a field of sand dunes on the mountain's slopes along the way. The dark bands in the lower part of this landscape are part of "Bagnold Dunes" lining the edge of mountain inside the crater.

According to JPL, the dune images have been color corrected to approximate how the sand would appear in daytime lighting conditions on Earth. The Martian dune fields are active, migrating up to about one yard per year. Curiosity will use its wheels, as well as its laboratory gear, to investigate the sand in the active dunes as well as scooping up particles for on-board analysis. It will move slowing into the dunes to avoid becoming stuck in the unknown Martian sands. Curiosity won't be doing any fancy turns that might trap the "buggy" on its important mission to explore Mars. WHB

                       Close-up details of dune fields, Mount Sharp, Mars  (credit: Curiosity rover, JPL)


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