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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Mars Forecast: Dry Skies and Calm Winds for Mars Rover Curiosity's Landing

• http://www.popsci.com, By Rebecca Boyle
 We're about 34 hours from the Mars rover Curiosity's landing, and NASA has the latest weather forecast from the surface -- dry and cold, with a slight chance of dust. Slight is good.

Earlier this week, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted a dust storm south of Gale Crater, the rover's targeted landing site. While dust storms have posed problems for previous generations of rovers, the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft and Curiosity rover is designed to handle dust and winds, so a light storm wouldn't have been a huge problem. But it could have caused added turbulence, interfering with the spacecraft's guided entry and landing. Curiosity could still land safely, though it may set its wheels down with a little less accuracy than managers want.

But the latest imagery from the Mars orbiters shows the dust storm clearing, said Ashwin Vasavada, deputy project scientist for the mission.

"Fortunately, Mars is playing nice, and we're going to have good conditions for Sunday," Vasavada said. 

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