Two nights ago, the space enthusiast twitterverse lit up when a shiny object was sighted on Mars and interrupted Curisoity’s soil-scooping mission. The Curiosity rover stopped the mission to investigate the object with her cameras. People guessed that the shiny material could be a piece of plastic or tape from Curiosity, or even a nut or bolt dropped off the rover, similar to this object spied by the Pheonix Mars Lander.After spending a day imaging the object, NASA scientists confirmed yesterday that the object is likely a bit of plastic from the rover itself. Here’s the image again to refresh your memory. It really looks like a piece of tape to me:
Curiosity’s main activity in the 62nd sol of the mission (Oct. 8, 2012) was to image a small, bright object on the ground using the Remote Micro-Imager of the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument.
The rover team’s assessment is that the bright object is something from the rover, not Martian material. It appears to be a shred of plastic material, likely benign, but it has not been definitively identified.
To proceed cautiously, the team is continuing the investigation for another day before deciding whether to resume processing of the sample in the scoop. Plans include imaging of surroundings with the Mastcam.
A sample of sand and dust scooped up on Sol 61 remains in the scoop. Plans to transfer it from the scoop into other chambers of the sample-processing device were postponed as a precaution during planning for Sol 62 after the small, bright object was detected in an image from the Mast Camera (Mastcam).
A Sol 62 raw image from ChemCam, at http://1.usa.gov/R1fZHt, shows the object in question just to left of centre of the image.
Sol 62, in Mars local mean solar time at Gale Crater, will end at 12:23 a.m. Oct. 9, PDT (3:23 a.m., EDT).
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