Mars Colony Is Dusty: Weather Forecast

First Posted: Oct 19, 2016 05:56 AM EDT

When the deadly Hurricane Matthew made its way through the Caribbean to South Carolina and the U.S. East Coast, weather satellites deployed all over helped the forecasters watch its approach very carefully. They could track its movement minute after minute and the astronauts at International Space Station captured photographs several times a day. This advanced and accurate monitoring helped in the better understanding of hurricane's impact and emergency services could be provided more conveniently. Evacuation plans could be executed ahead of time due to these predictions.

However, Mars only has a handful of satellites orbiting around it. Very few instruments are devoted to observe the atmosphere. It will be more difficult to foretell the weather on Mars once humans set foot and establish colonies on the Red Planet. NASA aspires to achieve human arrival on Mars in 2030s while SpaceX hopes to accomplish the mission even sooner.

More satellites and weather forecast stations need to be deployed in order to study the atmosphere. As the years have passed, more and more satellites and spacecrafts have been arriving on Mars. So, it won't be surprising to be able to see a network in place before humans walk on the surface of the planet, according to

Currently, weather predictions on Mars come from the researchers at San Diego's Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) on a weekly basis. MSSS has manufactured many of the imaging devices used in Martian rovers and orbiters for NASA. The researchers use the Mars Color Imager camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to predict the weather. But to really have a robust weather forecast system, NASA planetary scientist Michael Smith says you will need a large network of orbiters and ground weather stations to see what's going on exactly.

"In our business, the more, the better," said Smith, who works at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. It is extremely difficult to measure winds at the moment because it requires a lidar (a laser detection system, based on the principles of radar) that will track speeds of dust or changes in the atmosphere.

Although 2030s seem to be far-away from now, it is certain that space missions take nearly a decade to be planned and executed. So the future of weather predictions will rely on what landers and orbiters are going to work in the coming years.

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