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B. The Electrical Challenge of Martian Dust Devils

Narrator:This is Science Today. If you've driven through the desert, you've probably seen dust devils-but you might not have known that scientists study these swirling winds in places like Arizona to learn more about the same phenomena on Mars. UC Berkeley physicist Greg DeLory is looking at the effects dust devils might have on robotic and human exploration of the Red Planet.

DeLory: Not only does dust obscure vision and block out the sky, it turns out that all this dust moving around generates frictional charging just like rubbing your feet up against the carpet.

Narrator: And while the electrical charges of earth's dust devils don't amount to much, Martian dust devils can be 100 times wider and ten times higher, and therefore more electrically dangerous.

DeLory: You can imagine dust getting inside a spacesuit seal or an airlock seal and it causing a problem. If it's electrically charged it tends to stick to things, and then the discharges might affect communications, damage computers, damage connectors, all the things that have happened to consumer-level products on earth from shaggy carpets and other things like that.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.