Mars Resemblance to the Mojave Desert

©2012 NASA

©Michael E. Gordon


As soon as the first images from the Mars rover Curiosity were beamed back to earth  on August 6, comparisons to the Mojave Desert immediately began flying:

Curiosity and the Mojave Desert of Mars

Curiosity Surveys a Martian Mojave Desert

Mars Landscape Looks Similar To California’s Mojave Desert

These revelations were no surprise to NASA scientists, the U.S. Military, and others who have observed and used for decades the Mojave Desert’s similarities to other landscapes. Although I have yet to set foot on the moon or Mars, I’ve often found myself in such similarly desolate and austere locales throughout the California desert.

When I first viewed the black and white image from Curiosity – seen here at top left – I swore that I had previously seen and photographed this landscape with my own eyes. That is, not in a broad “looks-like-the-Mojave” kind of way, but right down the to the same terrain and distant land forms. I knew I had “been to Mars” before Curiosity, so I went archive digging and turned up at least one eerie similarity (seen below the NASA photo). The only evident dissimilarity of these landscapes is created by water: Given a little rain, I can visualize Martian valleys full of blooming lupine and creosote.

I’ve included one additional photo at bottom left. Mars? Mojave? How much difference there really is will likely come to be known in the weeks and months ahead.

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