Mars Rover Perseverance Spots Thermal Blanket Detritus on Surface of Planet

Without having ever landed a person on the surface of the red planet, humanity has found a way to pollute it. On Wednesday, NASA reported that its rover Perseverance had spotted “something unexpected” —human garbage on Mars. A tweet shared by the rover team showed a small, silvery piece of foil wedged between two rocks in the Jezero crater, which Perseverance has been exploring for ancient signs of life and other biosignatures for over a year. “It’s a surprise finding this here: My descent stage crashed about 2 km away,” the team wrote in the voice of Perseverance. “Did this piece land here after that, or was it blown here by the wind?” NASA identified the trash as a piece of thermal blanket, part of a rover’s landing gear that is used to control temperature during the nail-biting touch-down phase, often referred to by the agency as “seven minutes of terror.” Perseverance touched down on the surface of the planet in February 2021, kicking off NASA’s ninth mission on Mars. It was not immediately clear on Wednesday if the little robot would be subject to any fines for littering.

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