The Blowing Sands of Mars and NASA's Error

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This much sand simply cannot blow around in a near vacuum with the wind speeds seen. (Originally posted 3/6/2012, Abstract updated 6/5/2018)

On the matrix below the axis term is SANDS OF MARS. Recently it was learned that these sands exhibit far more movement than should be expected given the low accepted, near-vacuum pressure on Mars (6.1 mbar on average). In the 45-letters (white background) around the axis term are the a-priori key words MOVEMENT and PRESSURE.  When the matrix is expanded to 348 letters, then they key word WINDS appears. This article will explore all scientific evidence that the pressure on Mars is higher than advertised, and then look at possibilities related to whether the low pressures are simply due to failure of the Tavis pressure transducers used on the Viking and Pathfinder missions, and a similar failure by the Vaisala transducer used on Phoenix and current en route to Mars on the MSL; or whether the false pressure readings are by deliberate political design. 

STATISTICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MATRIX. As per my standard protocol, no statistical significance is assigned to the axis term, here SANDS OF MARS at its second lowest ELS. The area of major interest is the 45-letters (white background) around the axis term with the a-priori key words MOVEMENT and PRESSURE. Before considering the rank of the axis term ELS (2), the odds against having MOVEMENT in the 45 letters were about 968 to 1. As for the 3-letter word WINDS, I require such short words to have all letters within three letters of each other. As such, odds against having it in the white area were about 39 to 1. When I combined these odds and then divide the significance in half to account for the ELS rank of SANDS OF MARS (we had two chances to produce these matches because the ELS rank was 2), then the matches appear against odds of about 19,305 to 1. Although the key word WINDS makes the matrix look more complete, in reality increasing the matrix area to 348 letters only drops the combined significance of everything so that the full matrix exists against odds of about 158 to 1. Now, this is a Torah Codes site, however I consider myself to be a serious Mars researcher, and as such the battle for truth about Martian pressure must be fought with data derived from NASA, JPL, the European Space Agency, and other standard sources. So let's put aside the Codes and delve into the real evidence, starting with the Abstract for the report written by my son and I (note: Abstract below for this report was updated on May 28, 2019):      


ABSTRACT: We present evidence that NASA is seriously understating Martian air pressure. Our 8-year study critiques 2,060 Sols (over 5 terrestrial years, 3 Martian years) of highly problematic MSL Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) weather data, and offers an in depth audit of over 8,311 hourly Viking 1 and 2 weather reports. We discuss analysis of technical papers, NASA documents, and personal interviews of transducer designers. We troubleshoot pressures based on radio occultation/spectroscopy, and the previously accepted small pressure ranges that could be measured by Viking 1 and 2 (18 mbar), Pathfinder and Phoenix (12 mbar), and MSL (11.5 mbar - altered to 14 mbar in 2017). For MSL there were several pressures published at or slightly above the initial advertised upper range of the pressure sensor. Indeed, from August 30 to September 5, 2012 pressures initially published were from 737 mbar to 747 mbar – two orders of magnitude high – only to be retracted. We challenged them all and NASA revised them down, however 8 years into this audit it has come to our attention that of two pressure sensors ordered by NASA for Mars Pathfinder, one of them (Tavis Dash No. 1) could in fact measure up to 1,034 mbar. Further, for the MSL according to an Abstract to the American Geophysical Union for the Fall 2012 meeting, The Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) states of their MSL (and Phoenix) Vaisala transducers, “The pressure device measurement range is 0 – 1025 hPa in temperature range of -45°C – 55°C, but its calibration is optimized for the Martian pressure range of 4 – 12 hPa..” So while we originally thought that of the five landers on Mars that had meteorological suites, none of them could measure Earth-like pressures, in fact, assuming that the higher pressure sensor Pathfinder Tavis Dash 1 (0-15 PSIA/1,034 mbar) was sent rather than Tavis Dash 2 (0-0.174 PSIA/12 mbar), three landers were actually equipped to get the job done, but the public was largely kept in the dark about it. All 19 low uv values were removed when we asked about them, although they eventually restored 12 of them. REMS always-sunny opacity reports were contradicted by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter photos. Why REMS Team data was so wrong is a matter of speculation beyond the basic thrust of this report, but we clearly demonstrate that their weather data was regularly revised after they studied critiques in working versions of this report and on our websites at and

Vikings and MSL showed consistent timing of daily pressure spikes which we link to how gas pressure in a sealed container would vary with Absolute temperature, to heating by radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), and to dust clots at air access tubes and dust filters. Pathfinder, Phoenix and MSL wind measurement failed. Phoenix and MSL pressure transducer design problems included confusion about dust filter location, and lack of information about nearby heat sources due to International Traffic and Arms Regulations (ITAR). NASA Ames could not replicate dust devils at 10 mbar. Rapidly filled MER Spirit tracks required wind speeds of 80 mph at the assumed low pressures. These winds were never recorded on Mars. Nor could NASA explain drifting Barchan sand dunes. Based on the above and dust devils on Arsia Mons to altitudes of 17 km above areoid (Martian equivalent of sea level), spiral storms with 10 km eye-walls above Arsia Mons and similar storms above Olympus Mons (over 21 km high), dust storm opacity, snow at Phoenix and elsewhere that descends 1 to 2 km in only 5 or 10 minutes, excessive aero braking, liquid water running on the surface in numerous locations at Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL) and stratus clouds 13 km above areoid, we argue for an average pressure at areoid of ~511 mbar rather than the accepted 6.1 mbar. This pressure grows to 1,050 mbar in the Hellas Basin.



       You can read my own Abstract for Part 2 at Hot Mars Info. However the first point to be made is that findings since our presentations greatly back our contention that air pressure is higher than advertised for Mars. After demonstrating that this is so, we will examine the issues of personalities behind the failure to properly investigate Mars, look at the question of any motivation for disinformation, and then proceed to speculation about who is behind the coverup and, in particular, what devastating U.S. and worldwide financial actions that they are involved with to keep the lid on the truth about Mars.




       The critical paper published after our presentation last summer was Planet-wide sand motion on Mars by Nathan T. Bridges (et al., 2012). The full paper can be found at Geology, January 2012; v. 40; no. 1; p. 31–34; doi:10.1130/G32373. Its figures are at Data Repository item 2012011. I initially only saw the press release about it, an article published on November 17, 2011 by Dwayne Brown of NASA Headquarters and Priscilla Vega at JPL entitled NASA Orbiter Catches Mars Sand Dunes In Motion ( A few quotes are as follows:

     "Mars either has more gusts of wind than we knew about before, or the winds are capable of transporting more sand," said Nathan Bridges, planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., and lead author of a paper on the finding published online in the journal Geology. We used to think of the sand on Mars as relatively immobile, so these new observations are changing our whole perspective."
     ...Now, after years of monitoring the Martian surface, the spacecraft has documented movements of a few yards or meters per year in dozens of locations across the planet.  
      The air on Mars is thin, so stronger gusts of wind are needed to push a grain of sand. Wind-tunnel experiments have shown that a patch of sand would take winds of about 80 mph to move on Mars compared with only 10 mph on Earth. Measurements from the meteorology experiments on NASA's Viking landers in the 1970s and early 1980s, in addition to climate models, showed such winds should be rare on Mars. 
     The first hints that Martian dunes move came from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, which operated from 1997 to 2006. But the spacecraft's cameras lacked the resolution to definitively detect the changes. NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers also detected hints of shifting sand when they touched down on the red planet's surface in 2004. The mission team was surprised to see grains of sand dotting the rovers' solar panels. They also witnessed the rovers' track marks filling in with sand."

     It would seem obvious that winds can only be more capable of transporting sand if the air is denser than previously believed. Let's go back to the statement that, "Wind-tunnel experiments have shown that a patch of sand would take winds of about 80 mph to move on Mars compared with only 10 mph on Earth." How does this compare with winds observed on Mars? The first set of graphs below show how wind speed varied at Viking 1 between its sols 1 and 350 (with the exception of sols 116 to 133 because data was missing then). Every sol (Martian day) was divided into 25 time bins (59-minute hours), with wind readings provided for each one. During sols 1 to 199 the maximum wind recorded was 16.4 meters per second (36.7 miles per hour). Between sols 200 and 350 there was one incident where winds reached 25.9 m/s (57.9 mph), but at no measured point over 8,331 measurements, did the wind ever reach 80 mph. Average winds for Viking 1 were about 2.75 m/s (6.12 mph) during sols 1 to 199, and 5.3 m/s (11.86 mph) during its sol 200 to 350. All wind data was obtained from the Viking Project Group headed by Professor James Tillman.

       For Viking 2 during sols 1 to 199 the maximum wind recorded was 9.9 m/s (22.1 mph). Between sols 200 and 399 it was a good bit windier, but the maximum winds were 23.2 m/s (51.9 mph) - still short of the 80 mph figure required to move the sands as was actually seen. Average winds for Viking 2 were about 3.37 m/s (7.54 mph) between sols 1 to 199.  Average winds for Viking 2 were about 5.96 m/s (13.33 mph) between sols 200 to 399. 

In the Abstract: Prior to Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data, images of Mars showed no direct evidence for dune and ripple motion. This was consistent with climate models and lander measurements indicating that winds of sufficient intensity to mobilize sand were rare in the low-density atmosphere. We show that many sand ripples and dunes across Mars exhibit movement of as much as a few meters per year, demonstrating that Martian sand migrates under current conditions in diverse areas of the planet. Most motion is probably driven by wind gusts that are not resolved in global circulation models.  
Roffman Group Comment: As was noted before our four graphs above, with 8,331 wind velocity measurements recorded at Viking 1 and Viking 2, in no case was a gust ever caught that hit 80 mph. The windiest day seen was with Viking 1 at its sol 214.78 when the planet was at Ls 210.872 (Martian fall in the northern hemisphere).  Was this a rare single gust that came out of nowhere? No, obviously it was a storm of some sort, because the winds began to rise on that day at sol fragment 214.38 (AM in the morning of a day that is about 25 hours in length with each hour having about 59 minutes), then falling off toward the Martian midnight. Based on data from Professor Tillman's Viking Project Site, the incident is shown growing and subsiding as follows:













































































































In the Introduction:

Dunes and ripples (collectively termed bedforms) are abundant and widespread on Mars, with concentrations surrounding the north polar layered deposits, within craters and other depressions that trap sediment, and as isolated patches on the plains.


Roffman Group Comment: The area surrounding the north polar layered deposits includes some of the lowest elevations on Mars (see the map below). Low elevation implies higher pressure, which means that it becomes easier for the winds to move bedforms.

In the Introduction: "HiRISE, on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), has a pixel scale as low as 25 cm, compared to the MOC minimum of 1.4 m, and shows fine-scale details on these sand features, including superposed secondary ripples on dunes not discernible at coarser spatial resolution."


Roffman Group Comment: So what we need to study (with on-going funds from NASA to do so) are HIRISE and rover photos.


In the Introduction: ... "the presence of the Martian bedforms is at odds with surface meteorological measurements and climate models that indicate that winds capable of moving sand (termed threshold winds) are infrequent in the ~6 mbar atmosphere (Arvidson et al., 1983; Almeida et al., 2008)."


Roffman Group Comment: Everything that we have seen and written about in our Report is at odds with surface meteorological measurements. This is the point. The pressure sensors had their air intake tubes clogged at landing, rendering their measurements too low and just plain inaccurate.

In the Introduction: ..."analysis of multiple HiRISE images acquired over several Martian years that demonstrates that many regions contain moving bedforms."


Roffman Group Comment: Clearly we are not talking about a rarity on Mars. If our rovers can detect the sand movement it is likely that such movement may be the rule rather than the exception.


In Methodology: "numerous field investigations show that the ratio of crest-to-crest spacing to height for terrestrial sand and granule ripples is ~10:1, with ranges of 5:1–27:1 (Sharp, 1963; Werner et al., 1986; Zimbelman, 2010), the width of barchans relative to height is 7:1–15:1 (Hesp and Hastings, 1998; Gay, 1999), and dome dunes have width to height ratios of ~10:1 (Catto and Bacchuber, 2000). Therefore, measured bedform spacing and widths were converted to height by multiplying by 10, the one exception being the height of dunes in Nili Patera, for which a DEM was available."


Roffman Group Comment: Thus it appears that despite the differences in gravity and air density between the Earth and Mars, assumptions based on terrestrial geology are not out of line for Martian considerations.


In Rates of Movement: 

Martian dunes overlap with migration rates found on Earth. In contrast, the Mars ripple migration rates are about three orders of magnitude less than typical Earth values for bedforms of the same size and are equivalent to those of the dunes. Martian dunes with migration rates similar to some on Earth are unexpected, especially because some ripples migrate at rates comparable to those of the host dunes. If the Martian bedforms behaved like their terrestrial counterparts, and given the low frequency of threshold winds predicted by climate models, an inverse migration to height trend of similar slope, but offset downward of the terrestrial points, would be expected.


Roffman Group Comment: Dunes would seem to be easier to track than ripples, especially over time. If so, the Mars ripple migration rates above might be flawed. However the important part of the assumption (shown in bold print) is that there is a low frequency of threshold winds. If the pressure is higher than accepted (flawed) values, then the threshold winds are lower and the likewise flawed climate models are irrelevant.


Under Comparisons to Global Circulation Models:

Comparing the movement map to predictions of the Ames Global Circulation Model (GCM) (Haberle et al., 2003) shows no correlation to the high wind frequency regions (Fig. DR3). This demonstrates that the models do not resolve small-scale topographic, katabatic (as occur in the north polar region; Ewing et al., 2010), and general boundary layer turbulence that may cause gusts above threshold (Fenton and Michaels, 2010).


Roffman Group Comment: The GCMs are based on the assumption that the average pressure at Mars areoid is only 6.1 mbar. If the movement maps do not resemble the GCM predictions, then this again may support our contention that the ultralow pressure is incorrect.


Under Comparisons to Global Circulation Models: ..."strong wind gusts not resolvable by GCMs are probably a major driver of sand motion. In polar regions not modeled by the GCM, katabatic winds may also greatly enhance local wind speeds (Ewing et al., 2010)."


Roffman Group Comment: Again, there were no gusts seen in the 8,331 measurements that we checked from Vikings 1 and 2 that met the 80 mph threshold cited earlier. On Earth katabatic winds carry high density air from a higher elevation down a slope under the force of gravity. They can rush down elevated slopes at hurricane speeds, but most are not that intense and many are on the order of 10 knots or less.  But looking at the map shown above, it appears that the entire circumpolar area is well below areoid with no mountains until about 45 degrees North latitude is reached. It is not certain from looking at the map that enough topographic relief exists in the far north in a wide enough area to use katabatic winds explain the sand movement there, though they might come into play further south where the MERs were deployed.


Under Discussion: Below the resolution of HiRISE as seen by the MER rovers, the evidence for motion of fine sand is compelling, with indications of sand blowing out of Victoria Crater that erases rover tracks (Geissler et al., 2010), craters superposed on the ripples being filled with sand (Golombek et al., 2010), secondary ripples from winds funneled along the troughs, and one observation of small sand ripple migration (Sullivan et al., 2008).


Roffman Group Comment: See Figure 7 below to view how fast Spirit MER tracks were filled in by sand during a storm in 2007. The Figure shows erasure of meteorological instruments. This means that it could not measure pressure or wind. However we can compare the time that it felt the dust storm to the time that Viking 1 experienced its two global dust storms in 1977. We could also look at what happened to Viking 2 then, but both MER Spirit and Viking 1 were in the Martian tropics while Viking 2 was at almost 48° North. 


VIKING 1 -3,637 meters (-11,932 feet) 22.48 N (Smith et al. states 22.2692 N) 49.97 W (Smith et al. states
311.8113 E)
VIKING 2 -4,495 meters (-14,747 feet) 47.97 N (Smith et al. states 47.6680 N) 225.74 W (Smith et al. states 134.0430 E)
SPIRIT   14.5718 S 175.4785 W

As such, it is appropriate to examine the winds experience by Viking 1 during dust storm 1977a, which began at Ls ~205, and dust storm 1977b which started at ~Ls 275 (see Figure 8). We reviewed the hourly winds for 20 sols after each of these Ls positions in the Martian orbit, where Ls 0 = the start of spring (in the northern hemisphere where Viking 1 landed), Ls 90 = the start of summer, Ls 180 = the start of fall, and Ls 270 = the start of winter. In skimming through the data it appears that in the 20 sols that begin at Ls 205, the maximum wind at Viking 1 was 25.9 m/s (57.93 mph - see Figure 2 above), but this velocity did not occur until Ls 210.872.  For the second dust storm the maximum wind was 18.3 m/s (40.9 mph). Note: For Global Dust Storm 1977a the first hourly wind for Viking 1, Ls (Solar Longitude) 205 was reached by coincidence its Sol 205. The initial hourly wind examined was at Ls 205.017 at Sol 205.38. Hourly winds were then tracked through it Sol 224.98. This occurred at Ls 217.301. For Global Dust Storm 1977b the first hourly wind examined for Viking 1 was at Ls 275.005 at its Sol 314.14. Hourly winds were then tracked through it Sol 333.98. This occurred at Ls 287.385. Note: Although there is no time lapse photo shown, you can get a great panoramic view of the environment around the Spirit by clicking here.


Under Discussion: At obliquities greater than the present 25° to 50°, atmospheric density is predicted to increase due to release of CO2 from polar cap sublimation and regolith desorption, resulting in pressures of 10–15 mbar compared to the current ~6 mbar (Kieffer and Zent, 1992; Phillips et al., 2011)... Because the threshold friction speed is approximately inversely proportional to the square root of atmospheric density, such pressure increases will reduce threshold friction speeds by 30%-60%.

Roffman Group Comment: During Viking 1's sols 1 to 350 the maximum wind velocity recorded was 57.9 mph. For Viking 2 between its sols 1 to 399 its maximum wind was 51.9 mph. If the surface pressure is actually 10 to 15 mbar, and threshold speeds are reduced from 80 mph to 30% or 60% less, then these speeds become something between 56 mph (with a 30% reduction) and 24 mph (with a 60% reduction. The 24 mph speed is entirely consistent with velocities plotted on Figures 2, 3  and 4 above. The highest wind recorded for Viking 1 also exceeds the 56 mph requirement. Therefore, the winds seen at Vikings 1 and 2 are consistent with moving sand at pressures between 10 and 15 mbar. The 8,331 wind measurements are not at all consistent with 6.1 mbar.


Under Discussion: "...these results show that winds in the present low-density atmosphere of Mars are sufficient to move dunes and ripples in many areas of the planet. A major climatic change with a thicker atmosphere is not required."


Roffman Group Comment: We think that the last sentence needs to be lengthened a bit. The full sentence should read, "A major climatic change with a thicker atmosphere is not required because the thicker atmosphere already exists now."


THE ROAD AHEAD FOR THE ROFFMAN GROUP. My son has attended three Mars Society conventions and made presentations at two. I've gone to two and made a presentation at one. The next one scheduled convention will be held at Pasadena, California on August 5, 2012. The Mars Science Laboratory is due to land on Mars that night, but it's the very last funded landing, and we are almost certain that the Vailsala pressure transducer flying on it (delivered to JPL in 2008) is fatally flawed, perhaps deliberately so. If so, it will again provide false data - making Mars a far less interesting place than it really is - making it far easier to finally finish off our space program. This seems to be the goal of the Obama Administration, whose NASA Director -  Charles Bolden said on July 8, 2010 that, "one of the space agency's primary missions is to improve relations with Muslim countries." And how does he propose to do this? Why, but cutting all funding for planetary exploration so our good Muslim buddies the Iranians can turn some the intercontinental ballistic missiles they are building into spaceships to carry the the Mahdi into space (we may presume with a crew of 72 virgins). Meanwhile, back on Earth, my good friend, Dr. Robert Zubrin, President of the International Mars Society, is left to beg and pout for funding for his beloved Mars Direct Project. is it any wonder that my son has chosen theoretical particle physics for his PhD rather than planetary science? He's still willing to work his math miracles for me when needed, but I doubt he'll ever take Mars exploration seriously again unless there is a major change in direction from our leadership. Meanwhile, I received Dr. Zubrin's latest plea on February 18, 2012. It reads as follows:


       "NASA’s official announcement earlier this week regarding its 2013 operating budget confirms what the Mars Society has been warning about since last October – that the U.S. government has ceased to view the exploration of the planet Mars as a priority, and that there is a complete lack of serious commitment to international cooperation on space exploration.

       "If the budget cuts proposed by the Obama administration are implemented, it will not only destroy America’s Mars exploration program, but will also derail that of our European friends.  The ExoMars 2016 and 2018 missions have been planned as a joint NASA-ESA project, with the Europeans contributing over $1 billion to the effort.  However if the U.S. betrays its commitment, European supporters of Mars exploration will be left high and dry, and both the partnership and the missions will be lost.

       “America’s planetary exploration program, in particular that involving the Red Planet, is one of the greatest chapters in the history of science, civilization and our country.  Its abandonment represents nothing short of embracing America’s decline.  This is unacceptable,” said Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin.

       "The U.S. space program is facing a very critical situation, one that threatens to set back the exploration of the planet Mars, the key to humanity’s future in space, for decades to come, if not longer.  The Mars Society is calling upon its members and friends to mobilize now in order to save America’s Mars exploration program. 

       "We need everyone to reach out to individual members of the relevant House and Senate subcommittees that oversee space exploration funding and demand that the resources for the ExoMars 2016 and 2018 missions be reinstated in the NASA budget this year!  This is a fight we can and must win!  It’s time to speak up!

       "If you have any questions or require more information about the “Save the Mars Missions” campaign, please contact us."


STARTING TO CONNECT THE DOTS.  Dr. Zubrin likes to sell his books at his conventions, sometimes creating a problem in that he doesn't know what is going on insider the breakout sessions where guest speakers are presenting their findings about Mars. Perhaps the most intriguing delivery that he missed in the past two years was one by Dr. John Brandenburg in Dayton, Ohio in 2010. He asserted that there was an ancient nuclear detonation on Mars. Brandenberg's credentials, history, and assertions are discussed in detail on my site at Dr. Brandenburg: Nuke on Mars. What I'd like understood at this point into this article is that IF Brandenburg is correct, what we are looking is at the core of why our Government would delay manned missions to Mars, attempt to silence lunar astronaut Buzz Aldrin when he speaks about a monolith of the Martian moon Phobos, put out disinformation about pressure, possibly sabotage foreign missions, and finally pull the plug on funding for our unmanned Mars probes. Who would want to keep us from knowing the truth about Mars? Whoever would stand to lose money by letting the truth out. Obviously there are major religious organizations that would lose money if people had their traditional faith challenged. The Vatican comes to mind, but here I can only offer a Torah Codes matrix connecting Obama, who cut the funds, and the Vatican.  Also see Babylon, America and Obama. Of course, the Muslim world will also suffer funding cuts if traditional Islamic ideas about history are refuted. An exception to the last statement is need for black Americans Muslims who follow Elijah Muhammad. They think our ancestors were from Mars - see Figure 2 here.

        In the near future (probably by May, 2012) I hope to reveal some startling information about the banks who have planned the financial downfall of much of the West in recent years, with a special focus on how banks have bet against homeowners in America to deliberately drive down real estate values. While this may seem totally out of line for an article dealing with the sands of Mars, I will show that in doing so, the banks have helped to create a financial environment in which it is easy to justify pulling the plug on Mars exploration. As with the Roswell UFO cover-up, the people who are in power will do whatever is required to maintain their power and wealth.