NASA's Perseverance rover spots its own junk on Mars and sends back a picture of it

The object is wedged between two rocks on the floor of Mars' Jezero Crater.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The a piece of junk, a part of a thermal blanket.NASA Perseverance/Twitter

You have likely heard of the universe's space junk problem. Now, it seems we are even polluting other planets.

On Monday, NASA's Perseverance rover took a rare photo of a shiny silver object wedged between two rocks on the floor of Mars' Jezero Crater and beamed it back to Earth for all to see.

Spotting something unexpected

"My team has spotted something unexpected: It's a piece of a thermal blanket that they think may have come from my descent stage, the rocket-powered jet pack that set me down on landing day back in 2021," Perseverance team members wrote on Twitter Wednesday.  

"That shiny bit of foil is part of a thermal blanket — a material used to control temperatures. It's a surprise finding this here: My descent stage crashed about 2 km [1.2 miles] away. Did this piece land here after that, or was it blown here by the wind?" they added in another post.

A strange déjà vu

NASA did not have an answer for how the piece of debris got to its current location, but it is not the first time junk has ended up on the Red Planet and documented straight to our homes. In April, Mars' chopper Ingenuity, which came to Mars at the same time as Perseverance, took aerial images of the wreckage of the descent shell and parachute. 

This spacecraft debris shows that human influence is indeed present on the Red Planet and that we should proceed with caution when exploring other planets. The debris is much too small to have any effect on the planet, but as more and more missions venture to Mars, the problem of space junk may become a larger one.

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This brings us to the question: How can NASA engineers and other space enthusiasts conceive of missions that do not pollute their environment at all. Is this a possibility or just a dream?

The Mars Perseverance rover completed a year anniversary on the Red Planet last February. On February 18, 2021, the spacecraft carrying NASA's $2.7 billion robotic explorer named Perseverance placed the rover gently on the foreign planet. The event marked NASA's most enthusiastic and thorough effort in decades to study if there was ever life on the Red Planet.

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