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E. Dust Devil Electricity and the Martian Atmosphere

Narrator: This is Science Today. As NASA prepares for further research missions to Mars and considers the possibility of eventually sending humans to our neighboring solar system, scientists worry about how people and machines will respond to the electrical discharges from the huge dust devils that cover the Red Planet. Greg DeLory, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, says the atmospheric differences between Earth and Mars are part of the research challenge.

DeLory: The fascinating thing about Mars is that it has a lot of the features that Earth does-dust and unstable climate in areas-but the atmosphere is much much thinner. It's about like being twenty miles up on earth, in what's called the terrestrial stratosphere.

Narrator: DeLory adds that research into the electrical discharges of dust devils on Earth, should help protect humans and equipment on future Mars missions.

DeLory: Transplanting that to Mars will be possible to a certain degree but the big questions remains: what does a lower atmospheric conductivity do to the whole equation? And this is why I think it remains a concern for NASA and an area of interest for us.

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