NASA Rover Finds Rubbish On Surface Of Mars
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Featured Image Credit: NASA/Alamy
NASA's Perseverance rover unexpectedly discovered a piece of trash wedged between rocks while it roamed the surfaces of the Mars.
The Perseverance rover has been collecting data and searching for hints of present or past microbial life since it first landed on the red planet in February 2021.
Now, over a year since it began its journey, the rover has made an unusual discovery.
Unfortunately, the discovery was not Martian life but instead was a piece of debris wedged between rocks. After closer inspection, it became clear that the debris was a piece of a thermal blanket which had come from the rover itself.
It's already known there is a pollution problem on Earth, and now it appears the rover is following suit and is itself littering across Mars.
NASA recently confirmed the discovery on the official Twitter page for the Perseverance rover, writing: "My team has spotted something unexpected: It’s a piece of a thermal blanket that they think may have come from my descent stage, the rocket-powered jet pack that set me down on landing day back in 2021.”
My team has spotted something unexpected: It’s a piece of a thermal blanket that they think may have come from my descent stage, the rocket-powered jet pack that set me down on landing day back in 2021. pic.twitter.com/O4rIaEABLu— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) June 15, 2022
Although the team were able to identify that the rubbish was a thermal blanket, they remained confused about how it found its way onto the surface of the red planet.
Continuing the Twitter thread, they wrote: "That shiny bit of foil is part of a thermal blanket – a material used to control temperatures. It’s a surprise finding this here: My descent stage crashed about 2 km away. Did this piece land here after that, or was it blown here by the wind?”
That shiny bit of foil is part of a thermal blanket – a material used to control temperatures. It’s a surprise finding this here: My descent stage crashed about 2 km away. Did this piece land here after that, or was it blown here by the wind? pic.twitter.com/uVx3VdYfi8— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) June 15, 2022
During it's initial landing in February 2021, a variety of instruments were jettisoned from the spacecraft which carried the rover, including a shield, a supersonic parachute, and a rocket-powered sky crane that lowered the rover to the ground.
It was reported in April 2022, that the rover stumbled across its discarded parachute, so it's not surprising that the rover has now discovered more of its landing debris.
However, the recent discovery has left social media users concerned about debris in space, with one Twitter user writing: "So it’s not enough to trash the earth, we’re littering on other planets now. This can’t possibly backfire."
Another said: So now we’re littering on Mars???
Fortunately, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty outlines that all government and non-government bodies are also liable for damage caused by their 'space objects'.
Although it’s unclear what exactly happens if you breach the treaty, UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory space scientist, Professor Andrew Coates, said the litter on Mars is nothing to worry about.
He told The Guardian: “The good news is that everything is sterilised before it goes to Mars, and the space radiation environment helps during the nine-month trip to Mars as does the harsh surface environment."
It's hard for objects to land on Mars due to its thin atmosphere, however Professor Coates said that ‘landing’ equipment, which touches the planet’s surface, may be lost on the odd occasion.
Thankfully, they pose no threat of contamination.
He said: "These 'fly off into the sunset' from the landing site and ultimately crash, but the contamination risk is very low."
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