Roaming Mars is a lonely existence to NASA’s perseverance, but the exploratory rover now has a traveling companion: a hitchhiker “pet rock” stuck in one of its wheels.
Fortunately, the Martian stone won’t affect the rover’s science mission and is only a minor inconvenience—like getting a pebble stuck in your shoe.
According to a NASA statement, the fore-left wheel of the fixture accidentally lifted the petrified rock on February 4, or Sol 341 – the 341st Martian day of the Martian year.
Rock has periodically photobombed images taken by the rover’s front-left Hazard Avoidance Camera (HaZCAM).
Recent images show that the rock is still firm, as well as hitting a ride for the first time after 126 days (123 sols). (A sol, or Martian day, is just 37 minutes longer than an Earth day.)
The rock is a hitchhiker with Perseverance for more than a quarter of the rover’s mission to the Red Planet. When the rock first made a home for itself in the wheel of persistence, the rover was exploring the Maze Formation—a section of Jezero Crater that researchers suspect formed from ancient lava flows.
Since then, the rover has launched the Octavia E. Butler has traveled 5.3 miles (8.5 kilometers) through the landing site, where Perseverance first landed on Mars in February 2021, and passed the remains of the Kodiak Delta, which once connected an ancient river and lake. ,
The rover will soon be ready for an ascent of one of the steep slopes of Jezero Crater, which may have removed its stone stowaway.
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When the petrified rock eventually falls out of the rover’s wheel, it will likely be surrounded by rocks that are very different from themselves as it is likely of volcanic origin.
According to the statement, a mission scientist joked at a recent meeting, “We may confuse future Mars geologist by making it out of place.”
Perseverance, or Percy, has picked up several other small rocks in its front-right wheel during its mission, but all of them have fallen within a few days or weeks.
According to the statement, this latest Pebble makes the passenger a Martian hitchhiking record-breaker.
But Percy isn’t the only Mars rover to have picked up a pet rock.
In December 2004, the operator of NASA’s Spirit rover – which roamed Mars between January 2004 and March 2010 – had to perform a sharp turn maneuver to move a “potato-sized” rock with its right-rear wheel because Scientists feared it would cause significant damage, according to NASA.
Previously, lifting unwanted rocks to other parts of the rover has been a more serious problem for Perseverance.
On 29 December, a bunch of small pebbles fell into part of the rover’s machinery, causing Percy to lock himself in for about a week. Mission scientists eventually figured out a way to remove the pebbles after forcing the rover to detach its drilling arm in order to properly photograph the affected area.
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This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.