NASA Baffled As Mars Rover Discovers Litter On The Red Planet

nasa trash
The Mars Perseverance rover team at NASA found an unexpected piece of extraterrestrial trash as it roamed the Red Planet recently. But the litter is not as "alien" as one might think.

When something is found on Mars that is not part of its natural environment, the first inclination is to be very excited. But as the past has taught us, it more than likely is not as "alien" as we might hope. An example was when NASA's Mars Ingenuity Helicopter found remnants of Perseverance's backshell and parachute back in April of this year. Now, Perseverance has spotted another piece of litter on Mars. While it may be "alien" in nature to Mars, it is not to the rover's team back here on Earth.

The Twitter account for NASA's Perseverance Mars rover posted a tweet yesterday sharing an image captured by the rover. It begins the tweet by stating, "My team has spotted something unexpected," but then explains that the object in question is a piece of thermal blanket from when the rover made its descent onto the planet back in 2021.

NASA's Twitter post on its Mars rover finding debris.
In a follow-up tweet the team said the "shiny bit of foil" was part of the thermal blanket used to control temperatures. While it may be obvious as to what the object is, the team is less certain about which part of the spacecraft it originated from and how it arrived at its current location. The descent stage crashed 2 km away, and the team isn't sure if the piece found its way there during the descent process, or was carried there by wind afterward.

In a statement to CNET, NASA JPL spokesperson Andrew Good remarked, "Less definite is which part of the spacecraft it came from - the team thinks the descent stage is a good possibility - or how exactly it got here."

The thermal blanket that attributed to the alien trash helped to regulate the temperatures experienced during the thrilling entry, descent and landing process. This is also known as the "seven minutes of terror." The descent equipment was designed to deliver the rover safely to the surface and then move away in order to protect the vehicle and its landing site.

Top Image Credit: NASA/JPL