Most Perseverance rovers spot tantalising rocks or sandy landscapes on the red planet, however NASA recently took to Twitter to confirm that they had discovered something rather ‘unexpected’.
The statement read: “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.”
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. pic.twitter.com/O4rIaEABLu— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) June 15, 2022
Although the team noted that the material was a thermal blanket, they remained confused about how it ended up on the red planet.
“That shiny bit of foil is part of a thermal blanket – a material used to control temperatures,” the statement continued.
“It’s a surprise finding this here: My descent stage crashed about 2 km away.
"Did this piece land here after that, or was it blown here by the wind?”
The discovery sparked fear of more human debris in space, with one person writing: “Well, we're off to a roaring start at destroying this planet just as much as we destroyed Earth.”
Another said: “No humans there yet and we've already left litter.”
While a third person commented: “And that’s how the first piece of garbage was collected on Mars.”
We’re already polluting other planets smh https://t.co/UHFxlCdi7n— gaia (@gaiaaayuuuh) June 16, 2022
The recent discovery may also conflict with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, an international law which outlines that all bodies are responsible for ‘harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies'.
While the laws are brief, they specify that government and non-government bodies are also liable for damage caused by their 'space objects'.
Although it’s unclear what exactly happens if you breach the treaty, as it is literally ‘alien’ territory, UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory space scientist, Professor Andrew Coates, said the litter on Mars is nothing to worry about.
He told The Guardian: “The good news is that everything is sterilised before it goes to Mars, and the space radiation environment helps during the nine-month trip to Mars as does the harsh surface environment.”
It's hard for objects to land on Mars due to its thin atmosphere, however Professor Coates said that ‘landing’ equipment, which touches the planet’s surface, may be lost on the odd occasion.
Thankfully, they pose no threat of contamination.
He said: "These 'fly off into the sunset' from the landing site and ultimately crash, but the contamination risk is very low."
Featured Image Credit: Twitter/NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover.Alamy.