NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS / Will Pomerantz
What is the shiny object spotted by NASA's Curiosity rover?
NASA's Curiosity rover dug up its first scoopful of sandy soil on Sunday and swished it around like a connoisseur tasting wine. But the long-anticipated sampling session had to be put on hold when Curiosity's handlers spotted a bright and tiny object nearby.
What the heck is it? A loose screw? A cigarette butt? A piece of Martian macaroni? The mystery lit up a few Twitter feeds this afternoon, but for now, the best hypothesis seems to be that it's a bit of plastic that fell off the rover.
Such droppings aren't unusual. "All the cool landers drop stuff on Mars," joked Sarah Milkovich, a member of the Curiosity team as well as the science team for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Her Twitter tweet included a link to a picture of hardware dropped onto the Martian surface by Phoenix Mars Lander back in 2008.