A Starfleet Command Base on Mars? Who Knew?

By Tom Yulsman | February 20, 2014 10:56 am
Starfleet Command Mars

The surface of Mars near Mawrth Vallis, as seen by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Dec. 30, 2013.

If you thought Starfleet Command was headquartered only on the north side of San Francisco Bay, across the Golden Bridge from the city, check out what the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spied on the surface of Mars in December.

Starfleet Command Emblem

Source: Wikipedia

To my eye, those chevron shapes sure look like the Starfleet Command’s logo. So perhaps they are architecturally advanced hangers for repair and maintenance of starships that will be used in the next Star Trek movie?

Perhaps another view can help reveal the answer:

Starfleet Command Flying V formation Mars

A wider view of the Martian surface from the HiRise Camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Source: NASA)

They seem to be flying in a V-formation, like World War II B-24 Liberator bombers on a run over Germany, or geese on their way to and from feeding grounds. For bombers, flying in a formation like this improved visual contact between planes, and also defense against enemy fighers. For birds, it greatly improves efficiency on long flights.

Starfleet Command V-formation Mars

Full view from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Source: NASA)

Starfleet Command dunes

Barchan dunes in the Western Sahara. (Source: Geologic Society of America)

But obviously, these things aren’t hangers or bombers or birds. They’re sand dunes.

To the left is an even wider view of this portion of the Martian surface. To enlarge, please click…

And to the right is an image from Google Earth showing the Western Sahara. Click…

The objects in both images look very similar. And that’s because they were shaped by similar processes.

The dunes in the Western Sahara are called barchan dunes. They form in a relatively flat landscape with winds blowing from only one direction. The ones on Mars are very similar.

On the Red Planet, they are formed primarily of sand derived from basaltic rock. According to the HiRise mission web site, they tend to appear dark during the Northern Hemisphere summer on Mars.

For NASA’s release accompanying these beautiful HiRISE images, go here.

And with that, I’ll say good bye. May the force be with you!

Wait. Wrong movie. Live long and prosper!

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Michael Hembree

    It looks like Starfleet has a water supply in the bottom left corner of the full view. Sure looks like a water-filled crater.

    • Tom Yulsman

      Possibly a liquid anti-deuterium storage reservoir — you know, the fuel for the warp drives? (Oh wait, that wouldn’t work…) Seriously, look carefully and I think it’s pretty clear that the crater has accumulated sediment. You can even see some small, linear, dune-like structures in there.

    • Michelle Kile

      I see a faint reflection of a face in the same water filled crater… Think it’s the master martian? lol…

  • Richard Khemin

    While this post will certainly and publicly reveal my own inner-Trekkie… yet I could not let this pass by without commenting that, as originally intended, this “Starfleet” logo was never portrayed as anything other than the ship insignia specific to the USS Enterprise. In the Original Series, all uniforms from different ships had different chest insignia on their uniforms, thus evidencing that the insignia our USS Enterprise heroes wore was specific ONLY to the USS Enterprise and its crew… not Starfleet. Okay… geekiness episode over. As you were! ;)

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ImaGeo

ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.

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