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Nine years on Mars: Exploring the Red Planet with rover Opportunity

dust dunes on surface of planet Mars

Photo: NASA

There’s a four-letter word to describe conditions on Mars, and it’s not pretty: dust.  It is everywhere and anywhere on Mars, and dust is a key component of Martian weather, says a Texas A&M University researcher who has spent much of the past nine years observing the Red Planet. Mark Lemmon, associate professor of atmospheric sciences, has served as a camera operator on numerous Mars missions, especially those involving the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

Spirit landed in 2004 and transmitted thousands of images back to Earth before it quietly expired in 2010, but its sister rover Opportunity is alive and well and still taking short trips and sending back plenty of photos, Lemmon says. He has published his findings describing nine years of dusty weather in the current issue of Icarus, a planetary science journal.