Outer space gets lonely, very lonely.
Even for a robot.
But now, NASA's Mars Perseverance Rover is no longer all alone!
Months ago, the rover picked up a rock, or maybe the rock picked it.
The rough around the edges hitch-hiker got stuck on one of the Rover's wheels back in February and I am pleased to report that it's still hanging in there and keeping the rover some much needed company!
From SciTech Daily:
NASA's Mars Perseverance Rover has six wheels, each powered by its own individual motor. For the right combination of strength, weight, and resilience, the wheels are constructed of aluminum, with some titanium components. This makes them strong enough to withstand the bumping and scraping from the rock.
For the past 4 months, Perseverance has had an unexpected traveling companion. Back on sol 341— that's over 100 sols ago, in early February— a rock found its way into the rover's front left wheel, and since hitching a ride, it's been transported more than 5.3 miles (8.5 km). This rock isn't doing any damage to the wheel, but throughout its (no doubt bumpy!) journey, it has clung on and made periodic appearances in our left Hazcam images.
The pet rock has had quite the journey!
And we are all very much enjoying seeing it photobomb the Rover's Hazcam photos.
Why is the idea of a pet rock so cute? And a space rock, at that!
This actually isn't the first time a rock hitched a ride on a Mars rover. Eighteen years ago, another rock that was a size of a potato somehow made its way into the rear right wheel of the Spirit Rover before it eventually dislodged itself and was left behind.
THIS ROCK though is on its way to start setting a record of Mars hitch-hiking! Fingers crossed it makes its way back to Earth with the Rover!
Where might this pet rock end its journey? It's possible that the rock may fall out at some point along our future ascent of the crater rim. If it does so, it will land amongst rocks that we expect to be very different from itself. As one of our team members quipped this week, "we might confuse a future Mars geologist who finds it out of place!"
So: if you're a Martian geologist from the future reading this, maybe a Martian graduate student tasked with mapping the historical site of Jezero crater: take heed. If you've found a rock that looks out of place, you might just be looking at the former pet rock of Perseverance!
According to NASA, the rover was launched on July 30, 2020, and landed on the Mars Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021. The rover's main job is to seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of regolith and rock to potentially bring back to Earth in order for scientists to study.
The Mars Perseverance Rover may have a job to do up there but what its really doing is putting a smile on our faces down here on Earth.
Godspeed, Perseverance and your pet rock!
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