BYU helping NASA prep for human mission to Mars

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PROVO, Utah (AP) — Researchers at Brigham Young University are helping with a NASA-sponsored project measuring the electrical charge and size of dust particles on Mars.

The BYU group is nearing completion of the three-year project that hopes to understand the climate of the Red Planet and the impact the dust has on materials sent to its surface, the Deseret News reports .

The project began two years ago after NASA asked universities across the country for a Mars dust analyzer proposal, according to Shiuh-hua Wood Chiang, one of the BYU professors and researchers heading the project.

"Mars rovers, when they land on Mars, rely on solar power and solar panels to generate electricity. Dust tends to stick on these solar panels and reduce the power generation capabilities," he said, explaining that the dust's electrical charge causes it to stick to the panels.

Researchers need to understand how the dust particles may affect future instruments and life support systems on Mars, he said.

He noted that "in the future, we will be sending humans to Mars and the manned missions will require life support systems that interact with the Martian atmosphere, we need to understand how the dust particles may affect these instruments and life support systems."

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