Curiosity’s Tracks Are Gone With The Wind

Images taken by Curiosity's MARDI camera show the effect of the thin Martian wind on its wheel tracks. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)Images taken by Curiosity’s MARDI camera show the effect of the thin Martian wind on its wheel tracks. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Mars may have an atmosphere just 1% the density of Earth’s but it can still stir up enough of a breeze to quickly cover a rover’s tracks, as evidenced in the animation above. Captured by Curiosity’s downward-looking Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) camera on Jan. 23 and 24, 2017, the two pictures show an approximately 3-foot-wide area just beneath the rover (part of one wheel is visible at upper left.) In the first image Curiosity’s wheel tracks are fresh and crisp; in the second, they’ve been blurred by wind shifting the fine Martian sand. As summertime is the windiest season within Gale Crater, one could easily imagine the rover’s tracks being completely obliterated after a week or so!

Source: NASA’s Planetary Photojournal

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