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The global dust storm currently raging on Mars shouldn't disrupt the touchdown of NASA's InSight lander this fall, agency officials said.
The planet-encircling storm is expected to subside by the time InSight arrives in November. But it won't be a disaster for the new lander if the storm still swirls or if another one takes its place, officials said.
July - Space - Agency - Communications - Satellite
On July 12, 1989, the European Space Agency launched an experimental communications satellite named Olympus-1. It was the largest civilian telecommunication satellite ever built, and some nicknamed it "LargeSat." It malfunctioned in 1991 and was lost in orbital space for a year before communication was re-established. Then in 1993, it was damaged by a meteor during the Perseid meteor shower and was decommissioned for good.
Even if the storm subsides as expected, a dusty haze will likely still hang in the Martian atmosphere when InSight arrives, said Richard Zurek, chief scientist of the Mars Program Office at JPL. That haze could affect how InSight's science instruments function, because it will prevent some sunlight from reaching the solar-powered lander. But touchdown should be fine, Zurek added.
Dust - Storms - Weeks - Months - Tempest
Martian dust storms can pop up suddenly and last for weeks or even months. The current tempest contains several smaller, active dust storms and appears to have been triggered by a single local storm first observed at the end of May.
Previous NASA Mars missions have dealt with such storms or observed them up close.
NASA - Mariner - Spacecraft - Mars - November
When NASA's Mariner 9 spacecraft reached Mars in November 1971, for example, it caught sight of a global dust storm that had been raging for several weeks. This was the second major storm of the year, researchers knew, because they had observed the first from Earth before the spacecraft's Red Planet arrival. The Mariner 9 storm was huge and dramatic; it covered the entire Martian...
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