The crescent-shaped dune was found on Mars' southeast Hellas Planitia area

By Ashley Boucher
June 13, 2019 06:59 PM
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The USS Enterprise’s next stop: Mars?

A NASA spacecraft captured a photo of a dune on the surface of Mars that looks suspiciously like the famous Starfleet logo from Star Trek. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), snapped the photo on the Red Planet’s southeast Hellas Planitia.

The V-shaped symbol turned out to be a dune that is left over from the planet’s lava and wind. The landmarks are called “dune casts,” which “record the presence of dunes that were surrounded by lava,” according to the MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, which is based at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.

The landmark was created from crescent-shaped dunes, called “barchan,” that moved across the area of the planet. After an eruption, the lava flowed around the dunes, causing the island-like landmarks to remain after the lava cooled.

“Eventually, the sand piles that were the dunes migrated away, leaving these ‘footprints’ in the lava plain,” the HiRISE website states.

In Star Trek, Starfleet is the organization that the famous Captain Kirk and Spock are part of, which is responsible for conducting deep space exploration, research, defense, peacekeeping and diplomacy.

While the symbol found on Mars is a fun, coincidental reference to the beloved sci-fi show, NASA and Star Trek have been linked since the show’s premiere in 1966 — the organization even credits the show with bringing space travel into the country’s “collective imagination.”

“When the [original] show ended after three seasons, NASA was still six weeks from landing astronauts on the moon, but Star Trek had firmly implanted the idea of travel to the stars in the collective imagination,” NASA’s website says.

Dune Footprints in Hellas These curious chevron shapes in southeast Hellas Planitia are the result of a complex story of dunes, lava, and wind. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona Star Trek Logo CR: CBS
Dune on Mars and Starfleet logo
| Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona; CBS

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The organization also pointed out that Star Trek actress Nichelle Nicholls helped NASA recruit African-American astronauts in the 1970s, and Spock actor Leonard Nimoy narrated Destiny in Space, which featured astronaut footage of the Hubble Space Telescope being repaired.

The former Chief Scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope, Dr. Edward Weiler, even said that Star Trek made him want to go into the sciences, according to NASA.

According to NASA’s website, the space agency awarded its Distinguished Public Service Medal posthumously to the show’s founding producer, Gene Roddenberry, to recognize the “way Star Trek inspired people around the globe.”