Aeolian features and processes at the Mars Pathfinder landing site


  • Ronald Greeley,

  • Michael Kraft,

  • Robert Sullivan,

  • Gregory Wilson,

  • Nathan Bridges,

  • Ken Herkenhoff,

  • Ruslan O. Kuzmin,

  • Michael Malin,

  • Wes Ward


The Mars Pathfinder landing site contains abundant features attributed to aeolian, or wind, processes. These include wind tails, drift deposits, duneforms of various types, ripplelike features, and ventifacts (the first clearly seen on Mars). Many of these features are consistant with formation involving sand-size particles. Although some features, such as dunes, could develop from saltating sand-size aggregates of finer grains, the discovery of ventifact flutes cut in rocks strongly suggests that at least some of the grains are crystalline, rather than aggregates. Excluding the ventifacts, the orientations of the wind-related features correlate well with the orientations of bright wind steaks seen on Viking Orbiter images in the general area. They also correlate with wind direction predictions from the NASA-Ames General Circulation Model (GCM) which show that the strongest winds in the area occur in the northern hemisphere winter and are directed toward 209°.