No Mars rover has ever climbed a sand dune – only small drifts – but Curiosity is about to try. Martian dunes are active – they move, almost flow across the surface. That takes wind, but the thin atmosphere of Mars doesn’t pack much of a wallop (despite the storm that opens The Martian.)
In my scifi book Glory on Mars, I claim that wind is sorting sand dunes on the Tharsis Plain. (Geek alert: “sorting” describes the distribution of grain size in sediments). My settlers sinter the uniform sands of Tharsis into construction stone for their habitat – the settlers want well-sorted sand.
Perhaps NASA will find out if I’m right. Though Curiosity is in Aelois, two Martian Quadrangles away from Tharsis, so I guess I can always claim my sand is different.
The rover is moving slowly towards Dune 1 – 200 yards to go – good luck Curiosity. Thanks to newsledge.com
In my stories of a Martian colony, sand and dust are big players. Colonists extract water from the traces adsorbed in sand, and my dunes are deep, expansive sources of building material – robots sinter the grains into custom-shaped stone to construct habitats. But sometimes the dunes are treacherous :O Check the stories out and let me know what you think.