WASHINGTON (TIP): NASA’s Curiosity rover has spotted a bright object in the red soil of Mars which could have a possible impact on its sampling activity. The object was spotted just as Curiosity was using its scoop to pick up Martian soil from a sandy site known as “Rocknest”. “The rover team decided to refrain from using the rover’s robotic arm on Oct 8 due to the detection of a bright object on the ground that might be a piece from the rover,” NASA said in a statement. The best hypothesis till now is that it’s a bit of plastic that fell off the rover, ‘NBC News.com’ reported.
The plan was to shovel and shake the light soil to clear out the sample collection system mounted on the end of Curiosity’s 7-foot-long robotic arm. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) reported that Curiosity’s team refrained from using the robotic arm in order to check out the weird object. “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,” JPL said in its mission status report. “These cases have generally been explained as bits of fabric or metal left behind by the rover, and it seems likely that the same will be said of Curiosity’s “cigarette butt,” said Sarah Milkovich, a member of the Curiosity team. Such debris is harmless — but if even a bit of it happened to get into the rover’s sensitive chemistry labs, that could ruin the scientific readings, the report said.