In a revelation, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has captured a picture of a shiny piece of foil that got stuck on a rock on the red planet. The space agency interprets the piece of foil as a part of a thermal blanket that is used around the rocket to regulate its temperature during times of landing.
The Twitter handle of the rover showed a tweet by the team saying: “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.”
The team expressed their surprise at the location of the foil which is nearly 2 km away from the place of the descent. The team wonders whether the piece landed there after the descent of the rover or was blown there by some Martian winds. The image of the foil shows black dots all across it and is reported to have been captured by the rover’s Mastcam-Z camera on June 13.
The Perseverance Mars rover was launched in 2020 (July 30) as part of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission and landed on the planet in 2021 (February 18). The rover is currently monitoring an ancient river delta region inside the Jezero Crater on the planet. The main function of the rover is to seek signs of life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth. The space agency hopes that the rover will find crucial evidence of microbial life on the red planet.
The Rover has a pair of zoomable Mastcam-Z cameras on its head that create high-resolution, colour 3D panoramas of the planet’s landscape. Also, on its mast is the SuperCam that can study the chemistry of rocks and sediments and has its own microphone to help scientists understand better. According to the space agency, the Perseverance rover is the most sophisticated robotic geologist ever made.
According to the experts, the rover will investigate the geology of the crater and will characterise the region’s past climate including presence of microbial life and water. This project shall contribute directly to the Mars Sample Return campaign, being planned by NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) that will allow scientists on Earth to study samples collected by the rover.
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The Twitter handle of NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover shows a picture of the team that wrapped the rover in thermal blankets.
The post said: “Think of them as spacecraft dressmakers. They work with sewing machines and other tools to piece together these unique materials.”