The Aeolian Environment of the Landing Site for the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin Rover in Oxia Planum, Mars

Favaro, E.A.; Balme, M.R.; Davis, J.; Grindrod, P.M; Fawdon, P.; Barrett, A.M. and Lewis, S.R. (2021). The Aeolian Environment of the Landing Site for the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin Rover in Oxia Planum, Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 126(4), article no. e2020JE006723.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1029/2020je006723

Abstract

Aeolian features at Oxia Planum ‐ the 2023 landing site for the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin Rover (ERFR) ‐ are important for Mars exploration because they record information about past and current wind regimes, sand transport vectors, and lend insight to the abrasion, deposition, and transport of granular material. To characterize the wind regime and erosional history of Oxia Planum we used a combination of manual observational and machine‐learning techniques to analyze the morphometrics, distribution, and orientation of 10,753 aeolian bedforms (Transverse Aeolian Ridges; TARs) and landforms (Periodic Bedrock Ridges; PBRs) around the ERFR landing ellipses. We found that, irrespective of the scale of the TARs, crestline azimuths are consistent across the study area and we infer that the bedform forming winds blew from NW‐NNW towards SE‐SSE. PBR azimuths show a substantively different orientation to the aeolian bedforms, and we infer that the winds necessary to abrade PBRs had a N‐NNE or S‐SSE orientation (180° ambiguity). From observations of active dust devils and windstreaks from repeat imagery, we infer a W‐WNW or E‐ESE (180° ambiguity) wind dominates today. Finally, we compare the inferred wind direction results from the aeolian landscape to modelled wind data from Mars GCMs. We note that, despite landscape evidence to the contrary, modelled contemporary wind direction lacks the consistent directionality to be responsible for the orientation of aeolian features in Oxia Planum. These results characterize aeolian features ERFR will encounter and suggests multiple wind regimes have influenced the surficial expression of the landing site.

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