NASA's Curiosity Mars rover reached the edge of a dune on Jan. 30 and photographed the valley on the other side, to aid assessment of whether to cross the dune.
Curiosity is on a southwestward traverse of many months from an area where it found evidence of ancient conditions favorable for microbial life to its long-term science destination on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp.
Based on analysis of images taken from orbit by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a location dubbed "Dingo Gap" was assessed as a possible gateway to a favorable route for the next portion of the traverse.
A dune across Dingo Gap is about 3 feet (1 meter) high, tapered off at both sides of the gap between two low scarps. Curiosity reached the eastern side of the dune on Jan. 30 and returned images that the rover team is using to guide decisions about upcoming drives.
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity to assess ancient habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, built the rover and manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.