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.
"This is the ideal storm for Mars science," said Jim Watzin, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "We have a historic number of spacecraft operating at the Red Planet. Each offers a unique look at how dust storms form and behave—knowledge that will be essential for future robotic and human missions."
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is managed by Caltech for NASA, manages the Mars Exploration Rover mission; the Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity rover; the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project; and the 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.