Searching for Sand Transport

Mars Perseverance Sol 488 - Right Mastcam-Z Camera: Sand ripples imaged with Mastcam-Z on sol 488. These ripples will be reimaged for change detection while the rover is parked here at Skinner Ridge rock.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU. Download image ›

Perseverance is currently stopped for sampling at Skinner Ridge rock. Sampling activities constitute an important aspect of Perseverance’s mission, and the rover’s strategic path is developed around sampling stops. During these stops, the rover must remain stationary for at least twelve sols in order to conduct proximity science and activities related to abrasion and coring. But being parked in one location for this extended period of time is also useful for something else.  

Sampling stops provide rare opportunities to conduct “change detection” experiments, which are used to monitor wind-driven — or aeolian — transport of sand. The basic concept behind change detection is simple: compare identical images of the surface acquired at different times to search for wind-induced movement of sand. These observations can be used to deduce information about the relative strength and direction of winds blowing in the time between the two images. Sand deposits and aeolian bedforms (such as the sand ripples seen in the accompanying Mastcam-Z image) are ideal targets for change detection.

Perseverance is not the first spacecraft to perform this type of imaging experiment. In fact, change detection experiments have been conducted for many decades, stretching back to the earliest missions sent to Mars. Theories developed prior to robotic exploration predicted that contemporary Martian winds would rarely, if ever, be capable of transporting sand. Paradoxically, change detection images acquired from orbiting cameras have revealed active migration of sand dunes across the planet. 

Developing models that can effectively explain and predict aeolian activity on Mars is vital for interpreting the planet’s climatic and geologic history, as well as mitigating risks to landed spacecraft and future human explorers. Surface missions enable researchers to study ongoing aeolian activity in greater detail and with higher spatiotemporal resolution than can be achieved from orbit, which is necessary for reconciling the discrepancy between theory and observation. Sand motion has been observed and studied in situ at spacecraft landing sites, including Gale crater and Jezero crater. Images acquired during Perseverance’s ongoing activities at Skinner Ridge rock and at future sampling stops will be used to further characterize the aeolian environment in Jezero and will provide new insight into enigmatic Martian winds.

About This Blog

These blog updates are provided by self-selected Mars 2020 mission team members who love to share what Perseverance is doing with the public.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these blogs are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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  • Mariah Baker
    Planetary Scientist, Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
    Washington, DC
  • Matthew Brand
    SuperCam/ChemCam Engineer, Los Alamos National LaboratoryLos Alamos National Laboratory
  • Sawyer Brooks
    Docking Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Adrian Brown
    Deputy Program Scientist, NASA HQ
    Washington, DC
  • Denise Buckner
    Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Fred Calef III
    Mapping Specialist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Alyssa Deardorff
    Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Kenneth Farley
    Project Scientist, Caltech
    Pasadena, CA
  • Phylindia Gant
    Mars 2020 Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Brad Garczynski
    Student Collaborator, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN
  • Erin Gibbons
    Student Collaborator, McGill University
    Montreal, Canada
  • Michael Hecht
    Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) Principal Investigator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Westford, MA
  • Louise Jandura
    Chief Engineer for Sampling & Caching, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Lydia Kivrak
    Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Rachel Kronyak
    Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Steven Lee
    Perseverance Deputy Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Justin Maki
    Imaging Scientist and Mastcam-Z Deputy Principal Investigator, NASA/JPL
  • Sarah Milkovich
    Assistant Science Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Eleanor Moreland
    Ph.D. Student, Rice University
    Houston, Texas
  • Matt Muszynski
    Vehicle Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Claire Newman
    Atmospheric Scientist, Aeolis Research
    Altadena, CA
  • Avi Okon
    Sampling Operations Deputy Lead, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Pegah Pashai
    Vehicle Systems Engineer Lead, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • David Pedersen
    Co-Investigator, PIXL Instrument, Technical University of Denmark (DTU)
    Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Eleni Ravanis
    Student Collaborator, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
    Honolulu, HI
  • Kathryn Stack
    Deputy Project Scientist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Vivian Sun
    Science Operations Systems Engineer, Staff Scientist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Iona (Brockie) Tirona
    Sampling Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Jennifer Trosper
    Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Vandi Verma
    Chief Engineer for Robotic Operations, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Rick Welch
    Deputy Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Roger Wiens
    Principal Investigator, SuperCam / Co-Investigator, SHERLOC instrument, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN

Tools on the Perseverance Rover+

The Perseverance rover has tools to study the history of its landing site, seek signs of ancient life, collect rock and soil samples, and help prepare for human exploration of Mars. The rover carries:


Where is the Rover?

Image of a rover pin-point at Perseverance's location on Mars, Jezero Crater

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