The Perseverance rover captured images of a piece of a thermal blanket used during its landing.
Space debris is a growing concern, in part because it contaminates otherwise pristine planetary bodies.
The rover is looking for signs of ancient microbial life in Jezero Crater, an ancient river delta.
The Perseverance rover has been searching the dusty, rocky landscape of Mars’ Jezero Crater for signs of life since it touched down last year. But now, the rover has detected human garbage on the surface of the red planet.
On Tuesday, the Perseverance team shared on Twitter They had seen what appeared to be a piece of the thermal blanket used to protect the rover from the extreme temperatures it experienced during landing.
“It’s a surprise to find this here,” since the rover’s descent happened about 2km away, just over a mile away, the team wrote. “Did this piece land here after that, or was it blown away by the wind?”
This is not the only debris from the rover on Mars. In April, the Ingenuity helicopter captured a bird’s-eye view of human-made space junk: the landing gear that helped it, and the Perseverance rover, get to Mars.
“Perseverance had the best-documented Mars landing in history, with cameras showing everything from parachute inflation to landing,” said Ian Clark, a former Perseverance systems engineer who is now leading the effort to transport Martian samples from return to Earth at JPL in southern California. in a sentence.
He continued: “If they reinforce that our systems worked the way we think they did or even provide an engineering information dataset that we can use for Mars sample return planning, that will be amazing. And if not, the images are still phenomenal and inspiring”. .”
Perseverance’s primary mission is to search for signs of ancient microbial life near its landing site, Jezero Crater, an ancient river delta.
Space debris is a growing concern for space agencies.
Mission fragments left behind in space, such as the boots, shovels and entire vehicles left on the Moon by the Apollo missions, can contaminate otherwise pristine planetary bodies.
And as Earth’s orbit fills with satellites and space debris, departure Earth for space exploration is becoming more and more dangerous. Also, all that space debris surrounding the Earth, including outdated satellites, burned-out boosters, screwdrivers, parachutes, and other debris, can be dangerous to the International Space Station.
Still, the restrictions that protect the space from contamination are few. Current space law hasn’t changed much since the Outer Space Treaty, which was formulated in 1967 and isn’t very detailed. More than half a century later, when celestial bodies like Mars become junkyards, the loopholes in the treaty stand out.
Aparna Venkatesan, an astronomy professor at the University of San Francisco, told an audience at an American Museum of Natural History event last month that enshrining pollution protections for the space environment will require defining it as a common heritage of human civilization. .
“Do we see space as our shared ancestry?” she asked. “Whose heritage is it and how do you honor it?”
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