NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover dug up more strange shiny objects on the surface of the Red Planet after it dumped out a scoopful last week.
Mission scientists originally thought that the shiny flakes were from the Curiosity’s landing module, or even from the rover itself, reports Space.com.
Now, however, mission managers stated that the yet-unidentified shiny objects are actually Martian in origin. Curiosity is currently scooping up Mars dirt in an area called “Rocknest,” in preparation to deliver its first samples of Martian rocks to a pair of instruments on its body.
The Mars Curiosity rover scooped its first sample on October 7, but stopped after the shiny object was discovered. NASA officials stated on Monday October 15:
“Other small pieces of bright material in the Rocknest area have been assessed as debris from the spacecraft. The science team did not want to put spacecraft material into the rover’s sample-processing mechanisms.”
The Huffington Post notes, however, that after a new review, rover scientists believe that the material is actually a Mars phenomenon instead of litter from Curiosity. NASA officials stated after the second review:
“Confidence for going ahead with the third scooping was based on new assessment that other bright particles in the area are native Martian material. One factor in that consideration is seeing some bright particles embedded in clods of Martian soil.”
Curiosity’s third scoop of the Red Planet’s dirt will be processed by the Mini Cooper-sized rover’s Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument, also known as CheMin. A later sample will be deposited inside the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, nicknamed “SAM.”