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    The Latest: It's the beginning of the end for the planet-encircling dust storm on Mars. But it could still be weeks, or even months, before skies are clear enough for NASA's Opportunity rover to recharge its batteries and phone home. The last signal received from the rover was on June 10.

    Scientists observing the global event -- which is actually caused by a series of local and regional storms throwing dust into the Martian atmosphere -- say that, as of Monday, July 23, more dust is falling out than is being raised into the planet's thin air. That means the event has reached its decay phase, when dust-raising occurs in ever smaller areas, while others stop raising dust altogether.

    Opportunity is part of an international fleet of spacecraft exploring Mars from all angles. The lineup: Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Orbiter Mission, Mars Express, MAVEN and the Curiosity rovers and ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. MarCo, the first CubeSats sent into Deep Space, are set to arrive at Mars in November with InSight. Explore Mars in Depth ›

    Ten Things to Know About Mars

    Ten Things to Know About Mars

    1

    Small Planet

    If the Sun were as tall as a typical front door, Earth would be the size of a dime, and Mars would be about as big as an aspirin tablet.

    2

    Fourth Rock

    Mars orbits our Sun, a star. Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun at an average distance of about 228 million km (142 million miles) or 1.52 AU.

    3

    Longer Days

    One day on Mars takes a little over 24 hours. Mars makes a complete orbit around the Sun (a year in Martian time) in 687 Earth days.

    4

    Rugged Terrain

    Mars is a rocky planet. Its solid surface has been altered by volcanoes, impacts, winds, crustal movement and chemical reactions.

    5

    Bring a Spacesuit

    Mars has a thin atmosphere made up mostly of carbon dioxide (CO2), argon (Ar), nitrogen (N2), and a small amount of oxygen and water vapor.

    6

    Double Moons

    Mars has two moons named Phobos and Deimos.

    7

    Ringless

    There are no rings around Mars.

    8

    Many Missions

    Several missions have visited this planet, from flybys and orbiters to rovers on the surface.The first true Mars mission success was the Mariner 4 flyby in 1965.

    9

    Tough Place for Life

    At this time, Mars' surface cannot support life as we know it. Current missions are determining Mars' past and future potential for life.

    10

    Rusty Planet

    Mars is known as the Red Planet because iron minerals in the Martian soil oxidize, or rust, causing the soil and atmosphere to look red.

    Did You Know?

    Did You Know?

    With about 1/3 the gravity of Earth, anyone on Mars could dunk a basketball in a regulation goal. But the required spacesuit might cut down on your edge.

    Pop Culture

    Pop Culture

    Image from movie "The Martian" starring Matt Damon as Marc Watney.
    Caption: Actor Matt Damon plays NASA astronaut Marc Watney in "The Martian." Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox/NASA

    No other planet has captured our collective imagination quite like Mars. In the late 1800s when people first observed the canal-like features on Mars' surface, many speculated that an intelligent alien species resided there. This led to numerous stories about Martians, some of whom invade Earth, like in the 1938 radio drama, The War of the Worlds. According to an enduring urban legend, many listeners believed the story to be real news coverage of an invasion, causing widespread panic.

    Countless stories since have taken place on Mars or explored the possibilities of its Martian inhabitants. Movies like Total Recall (1990 and 2012) take us to a terraformed Mars and a struggling colony running out of air. A Martian colony and Earth have a prickly relationship in The Expanse television series and novels.

    And in the 2014 novel and and its 2015 movie adaptation, The Martian, botanist Mark Whatney is stranded alone on the planet and struggles to survive until a rescue mission can retrieve him.

    Build Your Own 3D Glasses

    Build Your Own 3D Glasses

    With a few materials and a few steps, you can build your own glasses to view 3D images.

    Resources

    Resources

    NASA’s Mars Exploration Program

    NASA: Journey to Mars

    Mars Trek: Explore the Surface of Mars

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