The Mars Curiosity rover got distracted today while in the middle of her sand-scooping mission, stopping to investigate a strange shiny object in the sand.
The NASA rover team believes the shiny object may be a piece of the rover, or a previous lander, reports Business Insider. Because of this, they are stopping to investigate because there could be more debris in the sand that could potentially mess up the scooping mission if it gets into the rover’s machinery.
NASA team member Sarah Milkovich tweeted about the object, saying that a similar thing occurred with the 2008 Phoenix Mars Rover. Emily Lakdawalla, a Planetary Science blogger, believes it may be a piece of Kapton tape, which is used on many of the rover’s parts.
NBC News notes that the Curiosity rover’s Twitter account also spoke of the strange shiny object, stating:
“Team spotted bright object on ground near me — possibly a piece of rover hardware? Gathering more data.”
Sarcastic Rover also commented on the find, tweeting, “Did anyone lose an earring on Mars? Because I may have found it. Or else I’m falling apart. But let’s hope earring.”
The object was spotted as the rover was using its scoop to pick up and sift Martian soil from a sandy site called “Rocknest.” Curiosity was supposed to shovel and shake the soil to clear out the sample collection system that is mounted on the rover’s seven-foot-long robotic arm, called CHIMRA (Collection and Handling for In-situ Martian Rock Analysis).
The team will instead investigate the strange object to make sure that it won’t pose a problem to Curiosity’s equipment, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The JPL stated in its mission status report:
“Curiosity is acquiring additional imaging of the object to aid the team in identifying the object and assessing possible impact, if any, to sampling activities.”
Milkovich added that Mars surface probes, like the Curiosity rover, sometimes spot strange objects, like the “bunny ears” and “Martian macaroni” that Opportunity saw. These cases usually turn out to be bits of fabric or metal that were left behind by the rover.
Team spotted bright object on ground near me—possibly a piece of rover hardware? Gathering more data [info] 1.usa.gov/RrwZHG
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) October 8, 2012
Before it was interrupted, the Mars Curiosity rover was able to scoop and sift some sand. Check out the video below to see the rover in action: