The image of a downhill slope on Mars might look like fresh tracks left by snowboarders, but in reality these "linear gullies" on a Martian sand dune were created by chunks of frozen carbon dioxide—dry ice—gliding downhill while cushioned by gas, similar to how a miniature hovercraft would work.
The recent finding by NASA researchers prompted one scientist to alter her Martian dreams.
"I have always dreamed of going to Mars," said Serina Diniega, a planetary scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Now I dream of snowboarding down a Martian sand dune on a block of dry ice."
Watch and see why the NASA scientist thinks it might be possible:
As you can see, scientists replicated what happens on Mars by placing chunks of dry ice at the top of a sand dune and watching them easily glide downhill.
Gaseous carbon dioxide from the thawing ice maintained a lubricating layer under the slab and also pushed sand aside into small levees as the slabs glided down even low-angle slopes.
The outdoor tests did not simulate Martian temperature and pressure, but calculations indicate the dry ice would act similarly in early Martian spring where the linear gullies form.
As for snowboarding or skiing on Mars, well, keep dreaming.
Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona. Photo of snowboarding astronaut is a screen grab from the video.