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Martian Dust Storm Grows Global: Curiosity Captures Photos of Thickening Haze

A storm of tiny dust particles has engulfed much of Mars over the last two weeks and prompted NASA's Opportunity rover to suspend science operations. But across the planet, NASA's Curiosity rover, which has been studying Martian soil at Gale Crater, is expected to remain largely unaffected by the dust. While Opportunity is powered by sunlight, which is blotted out by dust at its current location, Curiosity has a nuclear-powered battery that runs day and night.

The Martian dust storm has grown in size and is now officially a "planet-encircling" (or "global") dust event.

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NASA Encounters the Perfect Storm for Science

One of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars has been spreading for the past week and a half. The storm has caused NASA's Opportunity rover to suspend science operations, but also offers a window for four other spacecraft to learn from the swirling dust.

NASA has three orbiters circling the Red Planet, each equipped with special cameras and other atmospheric instruments. Additionally, NASA's Curiosity rover has begun to see an increase in dust at its location in Gale Crater.

The thin atmosphere makes these storms vastly different from anything encountered on Earth: Despite the drama of "The Martian," the most powerful surface winds encountered on Mars would not topple a spacecraft, although they can sand-blast dust particles into the atmosphere.

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2018 FIRST Robotics Competition Season is Now Over

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With the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Houston and Detroit Championships over and the season coming to an end. We would like to take this time and congratulate everyone who participated in the 2018 FRC season!!

For the teams that received a NASA grant, please make sure to have your team complete their exit surveys in the link below.

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NASA Finds Ancient Organic Material, Mysterious Methane on Mars

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NASA's Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet's surface and subsurface.

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Mars Curiosity's Labs Are Back in Action

NASA's Curiosity rover is analyzing drilled samples on Mars in one of its onboard labs for the first time in more than a year. "This was no small feat. It represents months and months of work by our team to pull this off," said Jim Erickson, project manager of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, which is led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The Curiosity rover is part of the MSL mission. "JPL's engineers had to improvise a new way for the rover to drill rocks on Mars after a mechanical problem took the drill offline in December 2016." The rover drilled its last scheduled rock sample in October 2016.

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Curator: Drew Price
NASA Official: Brenda Collins
Last Updated: June 22, 2018
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