WASHINGTON, July 1 -- The Hubble Space Telescope shows an unusual dust storm on Mars not far from the spot where a NASA probe is targeted to bounce down Friday. The telescope team said today the huge storm has struck unexpectedly early in the Martian year so scientists are not sure how it will behave.
The dust is boiling through canyons about 600 miles (965 kilometers) south of the landing site. Researth team member Steve Lee predicts that, unless the storm turns into an all-planet disturbance, the dust should not interfere with the probe. Drifting dust could turn skies pink instead of blue. Lee, from University of Colorado, points out that the storm could fade to nothing tomorrow or could blow for weeks. He says, 'We haven't see a storm like this one before, so we just don't know.' So far, the Hubble team reports the ancient floodplain where Pathfinder should land still has blue skies with wispy white clouds. NASA has designed parachutes, rockets and major airbags to cushion the craft's thump onto the surface. One part of Pathfinder will remain where it lands while a tricycle-sized rover goes exploring. ---NEWLN:Copyright 1997 by United Press International.NEWLN:All rights reserved.NEWLN:---