Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


Recent Curiosity Mars images of a “foreign object” on Vera Rubin Ridge show it moved from spot to spot. But why and what is it?

It’s an alien gum wrapper or a Martian band-aid, declared a few observers. “Now I know where my lost sock went,” decried one Mars photo onlooker.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Spacecraft debris?

Reported a few days ago, Brittney Cooper, an atmospheric scientist working on the Curiosity mission from York University in Toronto, Canada, identified the “Pettegrove Point Foreign Object Debris” (PPFOD).

At first, it was speculated, Cooper said, to be a piece of spacecraft debris. In fact the object has been identified as a very thin flake of rock. “We can all rest easy tonight,” Cooper added, “Curiosity has not begun to shed its skin!”

“I can simply say that the foreign object debris (FOD) was confirmed to be a rock with further analysis,” Brittney Cooper told Inside Outer Space.

Rock fragment

But the quarry quandary is that this object did definitely move across the Martian surface. Why?

“The rock fragment was not present when we were in the area around Sol 2095. The rock fragment was still not there when we returned to the area a few weeks later on Sol 2130. It was present after the final drive to the drill target on Sol 2132,” said Ashwin Vasavada, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s project scientist for Mars Rover Curiosity.

ChemCam: Remote Micro-Imager photo.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

During drilling, the fragment, thought to be FOD at the time, “was predicted to move, since previous drilling attempts all showed movement of small pebbles due to vibration from the percussive drilling,” Vasavada said.

The dimensions of the rock were estimated to be 8 millimeters by 20 millimeters, 0.3 – 0.8 inches.

Not wind

Mars researchers intentionally delayed close-up imaging and use of the robot’s Chemistry and Camera’s Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectrometer (LIBS) Vasavada said, until after drilling because of this.

“It did move, as expected, but not from wind,” said Vasavada in information provided to Inside Outer Space. “It appears to be a fragment of rock that has a typical appearance and composition to other rocks encountered on the ridge,” he said.

One Response to “On Mars…Something in the Way it Moved”

  • Ld elon says:

    Looks like recycled paper or compressed Styrofoam…

    >Q “It is often used in disposable coffee cups and coolers” en-q.

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