Research Projects

The Museum's staff conducts research in three major areas: Aeronautics, Space History, and Earth and Planetary Studies. Below you find a selection of our most current projects.

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Projects Related To Mars

Traverse Aeolian Ridges on Mars

Wind-Related Features on Mars

Transverse Aeolian Ridges (TARs) are wind-produced landforms on Mars that may be either large ripples or small sand dunes. Ripples form in a very different way than dunes, so it is important to determine which these features are.

Keanakako'i Formation

Topical Martian Field Studies in the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii

The Ka'u Desert, located on the western flank of Kilauea Volcano on the main island of Hawaii, may be the best analog to what we think early Mars was like.

Dunes on Mars

Terrestrial Analogues

We are studying the history of landforms on Earth in order to understand how similar landforms were generated on other planets and moons.

Martian Shorelines

Shorelines on Mars

Some features on Mars have been interpreted to be shorelines around former lakes or oceans. We are examining the proposed Martian shoreline features using recent imaging data.

Artist concept of rover Curiosity on Mars.

Selecting Landing Sites on Mars

The Mars Landing site steering committee co-led the science community MSL landing site selection process and helped evaluate the landing site in Gale crater where layered rocks should yield information on the past conditions and habitability of Mar

STRATA Proposal

Planetary Ground Penetrating Radar

Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) gathers information on subsurface features using radio waves that are transmitted into the subsurface that then reflect off differing layers and structures.


Modification of Martian Impact Craters

Modified impact craters attest to the fact that some form of precipitation and surface runoff occurred throughout the early history of Mars. We are conducting a systematic analysis of all modified impact craters on Mars to learn more.

Artist concept of rover Curiosity on Mars.

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity

The main objective of Curiosity's mission is to "assess habitability" of both Mars' past and present environments.

Terby Crater, Mars

Light-toned layered deposits in Crater Terby and the Greater Hellas Region, Mars

The physical and chemical nature of the light-toned layered deposits in Terby crater are consistent with deposition of material in a large, standing body of water much earlier in Mars' history.

Computer Simulations of Landscape Development on Mars

Landscape Evolution Modeling on Mars

Branching river valleys show that Mars once had flowing water on its surface.

Ma'adim Vallis, Mars

Lakes on Early Mars

The search for evidence of ancient lakes on the surface of Mars.

Inverted Channels in Utah

Inverted River Channels and Volcanic Channels

We are studying inverted and volcanic channels using satellite data of Mars and in the field on Earth to better understand how they form.

Comparison of Theater-Headed Valleys

Geomorphology of Theater-Headed Valleys

Comparison of theater-headed river valleys on Mars with box canyons on Earth helps us to better understand both planets.

Margaritifer Terra, Mars

Geologic Mapping of Mars

Geologic mapping is an integral part of exploration and understanding a planetary landscape, because it shows the relationships between geologic units and helps delineate the history of a surface.

Exposed Layering in Martian Impact Craters

Exposed Layering on the Floors of Impact Craters on Mars

The oldest craters on Mars are much more eroded and filled by younger deposits than are craters on the airless moon and Mercury.

Spirit Rover Track

Example Results from Mars Exploration Rovers

The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity are acting as ground-truth operators, remotely manned by the researchers to explore the Martian terrain.

Vally Networks on Mars

Erosion of the Martian Highlands

Using preserved river channels, scientists at the National Air and Space Museum have been able to constrain the size of floods in Martian rivers more than 3.5 billion years ago.

Victoria Crater -- Mars

Degradation of Victoria Crater, Mars

The main objective of our study was to determine the extent of Victoria crater's degradation to resolve its original, pristine crater morphology and the processes responsible for its modification.

Holden Crater

Ancient Water Systems on Mars

Interest in the history of water activity on Mars is driven by the question of whether evidence of life, past or current, can be found on another planet.

Alluvial Fans on Mars

Alluvial Fans on Mars

Alluvial fans on Earth and Mars are important because they contain clues about past climate conditions.

Martian Valley

Age and Characteristics of Martian Valley Networks

Valley networks are frequently cited as the best evidence that liquid water once existed on Mars. Currently, we are examining valley networks in other areas of Mars with the goal of understanding potential global and regional climatic differences.