Lunar and Planetary Institute
Lunar and Planetary Institute



Former LPI Intern Studies Mars with the Curiosity Team

September 27, 2012
Source: Tuscaloosa News

Large sand dunes in the north polar sand sea on Mars.While a junior at Colorado College, Ryan Ewing became fascinated with Mars. He was so enamored of the fourth planet from the Sun that he applied and was selected for an internship at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, then focused his senior thesis on the Red Planet’s surface processes. He had no idea that one day he would have the opportunity to help others understand the planetary body that he had come to know and love.

Now an assistant professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Alabama, Ewing is collaborating with a researcher at the University of Texas researcher who is a participating scientist with the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). The MSL team will analyze rock outcrops and assess whether they are derived from wind-blown sediments.

“Mars is a wind-dominated planet. Rocks collected by previous rovers have shown outcrops that were deposited by migrations of sand dunes,” Ewing said. “The question now is what role has wind and the sediment transport system played in the evolution of the (planet’s) surface.”

As the Mars rover Curiosity begins moving around the surface, it will encounter these outcrops and use various instruments to provide imagery and other information that scientists will interpret. One instrument, the Mast Camera, provides digital color photos, video, and images that can be used to build three-dimensional representations of the surface. Scientists can look at the images and potentially identify the type of rock and how it was deposited by looking at sedimentary textures, Ewing said.

To read the full story about Ewing’s research, visit

UA Professor Studying Mars with Curiosity Team

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Last updated September 27, 2012