The Perseverance rover, which is currently exploring the Jazero crater looking for the first signs of ancient microbial life, has spotted something unexpected. The shiny object is wiggled between two rocks on the floor of the crater.
Fear not, it’s not Martian. This shiny object has an Earth connection.
The shiny material is believed to be a piece of a thermal blanket that engineers believed was part of the rover’s descent stage as it entered the Martian atmosphere and separated before the rover was craned down on the surface. The shiny material is likely part of that jet pack.
“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,” the Perseverance rover said in a tweet.
The shiny material spotted is part of a thermal blanket a material used to control temperatures. However, the Perseverance team is surprised at spotting the material on the floor while the rest of the descent stage has been found nearly two kilometers away on the floor.
“Did this piece land here after that, or was it blown here by the wind?” the Perseverance team is inquiring. The team also released images of the JPL team that built the rover and wrapped it up in thermal blankets.
The SUV-sized rover, which has been on mars since April 2021, had recently observed the winds on the planet using its cameras and a suite of sensors belonging to the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA). The cameras picked up the wind gusts on three occasions that lifted large dust clouds, the biggest one spread over a massive area covering 4 square kilometers.
The Jazero crater on Mars is unique to study winds as it runs north to south across the planet, often lifting dust during the dust storm season.