If Hollywood decides to actually film a desert scene on Mars instead of using CGI, we know exactly what it will look like. For the first time ever, NASA's Curiosity rover got up close and personal with sand dunes on the planet's surface. The rover took a series of beautiful high-resolution images with its Mastcam of the ripples and crests of the dunes, which NASA says are active, migrating up to about one meter per year.
The photos were taken on November 27, almost four years to the day that Curiosity launched (November 26, 2011). The site photographed is High Dune, which is a part of the larger Bagnold Dunes in the foothills of Mount Sharp (named for British dune researcher Ralph Bagnold and American geologist Robert P. Sharp). The color was adjusted in the photos so that the processed images resemble how the sand would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth.
Engadget reports that the next step for Curiosity will be to collect sand samples from the dunes for analysis. Check out the photos below, and head to the NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab space image site to see and download the full-resolution files.
"Rover Track in Sand Sheet Near Martian Sand Dune" // NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
"Martian Sand Disturbed by Rover Wheel" // NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS