NASA’s Curiosity Rover Found A Strange Metallic Object on Mars
NASA’s Curiosity rover recently stumbled upon an unusually shiny object in Mars’ Gale Crater. While the discovery received some coverage, it came at a time when most attention was focused on the space agency’s successful touchdown of the InSight Lander. NASA says it believes the object may be a meteorite and that it plans to study it more closely, though Curiosity was unable to pick it up on its first attempt.
The object, which NASA named Little Colonsay after an island in Scotland, has a distinct sheen to it, even noticeable through a black and white image the agency posted on its website.
“The planning team thinks it might be a meteorite because it is so shiny,” Susanne Schwenzer, a member of the Curiosity team, wrote. “But looks can deceive, and proof will only come from the chemistry.”
Curiosity has discovered meteorites in the past, though every irregular or eye-catching find sparks excitement, especially considering the recent discovery of a 12-mile wide body of water beneath the planet’s surface — a breakthrough confirming that Mars, at some point in its past, contained vast oceans and potentially harbored life. This possibility excites those who believe we may find evidence of a lost civilization or even fossils beneath the planet’s dusty surface.
The latest discovery apparently occurred the same day the InSight Lander touched down, as NASA’s JPL website said Curiosity was greeted by the Mr. Rogers’ jingle “Please would you be my neighbor,” before it got to work studying Little Colonsay.
This is not the first time Curiosity has come across anomalous looking objects, as it once found a piece of plastic, which was later alleged to have originated as debris from its landing.
Other strange looking objects the rover uncovered have convinced people that NASA found animals or artificial remnants it then covered up or ignored. However, the space agency insists these to be the product of pareidolia – a trick our minds play on us to make objects appear recognizable – though still, some remain skeptical.
Back in August, a very distinctly shaped object was discovered by Curiosity igniting speculation of an alien artifact or that it was a piece of the rover which was starting to fall apart. NASA tried to quell the excitement saying it tested the object and found it was a rock.
In other instances, online sleuths have claimed that the rover imaged animals including a squirrel and a duck on the Martian surface. These claims however, should probably be taken with a grain of salt, but if you’re interested you can find them here and here.
Even if most of Curiosity’s discoveries are just rocks, there are in fact, some truly unexplained anomalies discovered while observing the red planet – check them out in this episode of Deep Space :
Scientists Propose Splicing Tardigrade DNA with Humans'
Human beings have long strived to push the boundaries of space exploration and habitation, from the race to the Moon, to the multi-country missions to Mars. But is the human body really the best suited for the next stage of space travel? Beyond the technological and aerospace advances, the largest challenge is also the greatest potential for a scientific revolution – the limitations of the human body’s response to long term and long-distance space travel.
Surprisingly, the being that is providing many answers to the secrets surrounding space travel might be found in the tiny tardigrade, the microscopic organism that has evolved to survive the most extreme natural circumstances, from the bottom of the ocean to space’s vacuum. Also called “water bears” or “moss piglets,” these organisms measure at .05mm long, but are found literally the world’s many environments. Their unique adaptation process includes being able to survive some of the most extreme heat temperatures and external pressures by shrinking and dehydrating to .001 percent of its original size.
Tardigrades in this stage are called “tuns” in which the organism shuts down it’s metabolism to a near-zero point or cryptobiosis, including complete dehydration and lowered oxygen levels. When they land in a habitable environment, tardigrades are able to rehydrate back to their normal state and size. Research has shown that this evolutionary flexibility carries ramifications beyond environmental hardiness to the actual lifespan of the microorganism. For example, the average lifespan for a tardigrade is 2.5 years; however, scientists have discovered ones in the Antarctic that may be as old as 30 years!