"Enterprising viewers will make the discovery that these features look conspicuously like a famous logo", researcher Ross Beyer of the University of Arizona said in a statement that accompanied the photo release, adding, however, that it's a shame the snapshot is no evidence of "intrepid explorers" embarking on the bold mission.
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". It can be clearly spotted in the photograph taken from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
The dune resembling the logo was spotted in Hellas Planitia, which is a massive plain in the Hellas impact basin, located towards the southern end of Mars.
At some distant point in Martian history, crescent-shaped dunes were in the area. The symbol is, of course, the actual logo for "Star Trek", the TV series - but while it's mostly been confined to Earth, it's now gone to Mars.
Deep-cut 'Star Trek' fans will know that if a Starfleet officer is lost and without communicators, they're supposed to try and trace the symbol of Starfleet in the ground in order to be rescued..
Researchers past year found hundreds of crescent-shaped depressions on the surface of the Red Planet.
While the "Star Trek" feature is a coincidence, we can truly say that MRO has "lived long and prospered" (as the Trekkie saying goes) at the Red Planet.
Then came lava. Eruptions spilled the molten substance across the area surrounding the dunes, but it wasn't thick enough to cover them entirely. This particularly pop-culture-friendly dune is actually nearly entirely gone, having been blown away by winds long ago, but its outline remains thanks to some kind of ancient eruption that caused lava to flow across it.
However, given the fact that winds continued to blow, the sand piles moved slightly, leaving these "ghost dunes", or expressed otherwise "dune casts", in the lava plain.