Science

What Is This Shiny Metallic Thing On Mars?

While grabbing its first scoop of Martian soil, the Curiosity rover team spotted something that was not supposed to be there: a bright object on the ground. What is it? NASA scientists don’t know yet.

The image — taken by the right mast camera during the mission’s 61st Martian day — shows Curiosity’s robotic arm scoop full of sand and dust, waiting to be deposited inside its analysis unit. But after looking closer at the photo, someone noticed the unusual bright spot on the ground.

The scooping operation was then halted and the rover was instructed to take a closer look of the object. It has yet to arrive at ground control.

NASA suspects that this may be a piece of Curiosity’s hardware, but they are not sure yet. Could it be some screw that got loose and fell off the rover? Curiosity’s team will wait until they get the close-up of the object before “assessing possible impact, if any, to sampling activities”.

If it is a piece of the rover, I wonder how a lost piece can affect the rover’s functions. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory hasn’t said anything about it yet.

The rover landed successfully on Mars on August 6, 2012. So far, its operation has been flawless. [NASA]

Original image. Click to enlarge