NASA’s Mars rover has made an “odd” and fascinating find on the Red Planet — a small, crater-ridden greenish rock.
The discovery from Wednesday now has prompted the Perseverance’s instruments to take a closer look, and scientists are “trading lots of hypotheses,” according to the rover’s Twitter page.
“While the helicopter is getting ready,” the account said, referring to a separate mission by the Ingenuity helicopter, “I can’t help checking out nearby rocks.
“This odd one has my science team trading lots of hypotheses,” it continued.
“It’s about 6 inches long. If you look closely, you might spot the row of laser marks where I zapped it to learn more.”
The rover’s laser is part of the SuperCam instrument, one of seven science instruments on board the robot, according to Space.com.
Information gathered by the laser could help scientists figure out if the little green Martian rock formed in place or was transported to the Jezero Crater — an ancient lake bed — by the movement of water, by a meteor, or through some other kind of “impact event.”
“Is it something weathered out of the local bedrock? Is it a piece of Mars plopped into the area from a far-flung impact event? Is it a meteorite? Or something else?,” as the rover’s Twitter account explained it.
Scientists hope Perseverance can find a suitable launch site for its mini-helicopter by the end of the month to explore more of the Red Planet.
The $2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission began in February, and is expected to last for several years, ultimately preparing NASA for human exploration on Earth’s planetary neighbor.