Mars Spacecraft Teams on Alert for Dust-Storm Season NASA

Heading into a period of the Martian year prone to major dust storms, the team operating NASA’s twin Mars rovers is taking advantage of eye-in-the-sky weather reports.
On April 21, Mars will be at the closest point to the sun in the planet’s 23-month, elliptical orbit. One month later, the planet’s equinox will mark the start of summer in Mars’ southern hemisphere. This atmospheric-warming combination makes the coming weeks the most likely time of the Martian year for dust storms severe enough to minimize activities of the rovers.
“Since the rovers are solar powered, the dust in the atmosphere is extremely important to us,” said Bill Nelson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., chief of the engineering team for Spirit and Opportunity.