The Perseverance rover captured images of a piece of a thermal blanket used during landing.
Space junk is a growing concern, in part because it contaminates untouched 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 Jezero Crater on Mars for signs of life since it touched down last year. But now, the rover has located human debris on the surface of the red planet.
On Tuesday, the Perseverance team shared on Twitter that 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,” as the rover’s descent happened about 2 km away – just over a kilometer away, the team wrote. “Did this piece land here after that, or was it blown away by the wind?”
This isn’t the only piece of junk from the rover on Mars. In April, the Ingenuity helicopter captured a bird’s-eye view of man-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 now leads the effort to transport Martian samples. back to Earth at JPL in Southern California, it said in a statement.
He continued, “If they reinforce that our systems worked as we thought they did, or even provide a dataset of engineering information that we can use for Mars sample return planning, that would be amazing. are phenomenal and inspiring.”
Perseverance’s primary mission is to hunt for signs of ancient microbial life near its landing site in Jezero Crater, an ancient river delta.
To pollute boldly
Space junk is a growing concern for space agencies.
Fragments of missions left behind in space – such as the boots, shovels and entire vehicles that the Apollo missions left behind on the Moon – can contaminate untouched planetary bodies.
And as Earth’s orbit gets more crowded with satellites and space junk, leaving Earth for space exploration is becoming more and more dangerous. Furthermore, all this space junk around Earth – including defunct satellites, burnt out thrusters, screwdrivers, parachutes and other debris – could be dangerous to the International Space Station.
Still, restrictions that protect space from pollution are few and far between. Current space law hasn’t changed much since the Outer Space Treaty, which was drafted in 1967 and isn’t very detailed. More than half a century later, as celestial bodies like Mars become junkyards, gaps in the treaty stand out.
Aparna Venkatesan, a professor of astronomy at the University of San Francisco, told an audience at an American Museum of Natural History event last month that enshrining protections against pollution of 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 inheritance is it and how do you honor it?”
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