Science and Exploration

Mars Dust Storm in Relation to InSight, Curiosity and Perseverance

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
October 11, 2022
Filed under
Mars Dust Storm in Relation to InSight, Curiosity and Perseverance
The beige clouds seen in this flat global map of Mars are a continent-size dust storm captured on Sept. 29, 2022 by the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

As MRO passes over the planet, MARCI takes linear images – essentially strips – of the planet’s circumference each day.

The images are then stitched together to create a daily global map of the planet, showing atmospheric features across the planet as seen at the same time of day (mid-afternoon). Comparison of daily maps show atmospheric changes over time.

Besides providing unique scientific data, MARCI’s global maps are useful for monitoring weather changes that could affect NASA’s surface missions. The agency’s Perseverance, Curiosity, and InSight missions are also labeled, showing the vast distances between them. NASA’s Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter, are located at the white dot farthest north, roughly 2,147 miles (3,455 kilometers) from the agency’s InSight lander, just above the equator.

The Curiosity rover is just below the equator, about 373 miles (600 kilometers) from InSight. Neither Curiosity nor Perseverance and Ingenuity (the helicopter must remain relatively close to Perseverance, which serves as its base station) can travel the distance to the solar-powered InSight lander. The regional dust storm in this map was first observed Sept. 21. By the time these images were taken (Sept. 29), it had expanded considerably.

Within the following week, the storm appeared to have entered its decay phase, when it’s no longer lifting dust into the atmosphere. At that point, the dust that has already been lofted into the atmosphere and spread far beyond the dust-raising sector can take weeks to settle back to the surface.

While this particular storm was roughly 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) from InSight, it lofted enough dust to significantly reduce the energy being produced by the lander’s solar arrays, which have become covered by dust since the spacecraft landed in November 2018. The lander has long since surpassed its primary mission. With its power steadily declining, it is now close to the end of its extended mission, conducting “bonus science” by measuring marsquakes, which reveal details about the deep interior of the Red Planet.


SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.