mars plastic

Shiny Object on Mars Update: Likely ‘Benign’ Plastic

Article Updated: 23 Dec , 2015

by

Curiosity sol 62 ChemCam image detail. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Image processing courtesy 2di7 & titanio44 on Flickr.

Lost earring? Cigarette butt? Those were just a couple of ideas tossed around loosely by the public about what this unusual object could be, found laying near the Mars Curiosity rover. The rover team is still looking closely at the shiny object, seen in images of the sandy regolith near the rover, and they issued a report today saying their initial assessment is that the bright object is something from the rover, and not Martian material. It appears to be a shred of plastic material, “likely benign,” they said, but it has not been definitively identified.

A loose piece of plastic or insulating tape may have jarred free during the rover’s shaking of the sample of Martian regolith it recently scooped up.

The team will proceed cautiously and will spend another day investigating new images before deciding whether to resume processing of the sample in the scoop. Plans include imaging of surroundings with the Mastcam, and perhaps looking at the rover itself, too, for any chips or loose parts.

One of the rover drivers, Scott Maxwell said on Twitter that the entire team was working hard to figure that out what could have possibly come loose from the rover and they are “crawling over rover model, tracking down testing records, etc. We simply don’t know yet.”

A sample of sand and dust scooped up on Sol 61 remains in the scoop, and plan to transfer it from the scoop into other chambers of the sample-processing device were postponed as a precaution during planning for Sol 62 after the small, bright object was detected.

Curiosity sol 62 ChemCam view of the bright object on the ground. Image: NASA/JPL -Caltech. Anaglyph processing courtesy 2di7 & titanio44 on Flickr.

The shaking being done by the rover is to clean it of any residual oils that may be left inside, which could skew any results from the two onboard chemical labs, known as Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM), and the Chemical and Mineralogy experiment (CheMin.)

Daniel Limonadi, the Lead Systems Engineer for Curiosity’s Surface Sampling and science systems told reporters last week that the cleansing was required even though the hardware is “super-squeaky-clean when it’s delivered and assembled. By virtue of its just being on Earth, you get a kind of residual oily film that is impossible to avoid,” he said.

Once the soil has been shaken and stirred through the chambers, it’ll be ejected from the mechanism and ‘poop’ it back onto the Martian surface. “We effectively use it to rinse out our mouth three times and then kind of spit out,” Limonadi said.

The images here were sent in by Universe Today reader Elisabetta Bonora who zoomed in and created 3-D views of the images of the shiny piece. See more here.

Interesting to note, closeup views reveal more spherical “blueberries” similar to what the Opportunity rover found at its landing site in Meridiani Planum and at its current location near Endeavour Crater, too.



Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Lawdog
Member
October 9, 2012 9:28 PM

Tomorrow’s headlines: Proof of Life on Mars! Curiosity Rover Finds Plastic!

space_sailor
Guest
space_sailor
October 9, 2012 9:39 PM

resembles miniature PET bottle thorn and flatened. Not natural for sure. It could be kind of isolation which fall from the hole for missing screw someone spoted.

Tyler K
Guest
October 9, 2012 11:04 PM

Probably just a shiny rock, but then again, maybe martians are litterbugs like we are.

Simon Donaldson
Guest
October 9, 2012 11:15 PM

I wonder why they don’t just scoop it up and stick it under Curiositys microscope? Perhaps it’s too big / they’re scared because of its size, it might get stuck in the compartment?

“Extra Extra! Dud-Plastic find ruins multi-billion dollar mission to mars! Nasa Rover-Boss to be executed!”

SJStar
Guest
SJStar
October 10, 2012 10:31 AM

How much more dumping has happened on this pristine environment, I wonder?

NASA Boss Rover should be firstly dragged over the coals, then be drawn and quartered!

Report him to the UN for crimes against humanity!! I’d say.

William928
Member
William928
October 10, 2012 11:17 PM

You, my friend, are becoming increasingly delusional.

SJStar
Guest
SJStar
October 11, 2012 7:57 AM

You, my friend, are becoming increasingly arrogant. (especially when avoiding responsibility like most Americans here.)

spew
Guest
spew
October 11, 2012 8:38 AM

lol… you’re funny.

Aqua4U
Member
October 9, 2012 11:44 PM

Mmm.. the shredded remnant from an early probe or lander from a hypersonic atmospheric entry boo-boo? THAT
s been known to happen. The biological appearance of this specimen with it’s resplendence to a washed up on the beach then de-hydrated jellyfish or soem kine of giant space amoeba is interesting from a sci-fi writer’s point of view anyway?

SJStar
Guest
SJStar
October 10, 2012 10:27 AM

For once you are 110% correct.

Shows the US is not fit to represent the whole of humanity. Vandels I say. Vandals!

Dampe
Guest
Dampe
October 10, 2012 12:15 AM

C’mon guys, it was probably just a Wallaby.

GmailIsDown
Guest
GmailIsDown
October 10, 2012 2:50 AM

i want to believe…in conspiracy theories

john popp
Guest
john popp
October 10, 2012 3:57 AM

some of the best camers known to man and we get this cmon man

SJStar
Guest
SJStar
October 10, 2012 10:25 AM

America. Now known as the “polluters and garbage dumpers of the universe!”
So much for respecting new pristine environments for scientific scrutiny!

First possibly exposing the Martian to Earth-bound microbes, now dumping its filthy garbage on the Martian soil. Shame. shame, shame!
Basically the US is a country out of control, whose presumed jingoistic superiority is really irritating every other country who is acutely aware of the precarious problems happening right now here on Earth. Space is the only baton for all our survival of our entire species, and the US bureaucracy thinks not one iota what it actually important.
Leader of the free world. Ha! What a joke! Boo!

spew
Guest
spew
October 10, 2012 4:31 PM
I’d hate to break it to you and your melodrama, but we’ve been dumping and depositing stuff all over the solar system, and now beyond for quite sometime. We have a cloud of debris of space junk orbiting Earth. We’ve got Venera 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 either dumped on Venus somewhere or orbiting it. We’ve got the Vega 1 and 2 landers also on Venus; both the Veneras and the Vega projects were all projects from the USSR (Russian)! I got bitten by the melodrama bug and I’m trying to contain myself here. I can keep going with the different things sent out by different nations, but then I’d… Read more »
SJStar
Guest
SJStar
October 11, 2012 7:33 AM

I do condone other countries for the behaviour, but I do so more to Americans because they are always claiming to do this for “all humanity” and are presumed “leaders” in astronautics. If they want to claim this, then they should be held to a much higher standard.

Hypocrisy immediately come to mind.
Like most of the responses here, they are so typical of American attitudes, who seem totally incapable of seeing beyond their narrow-minded view of the world. Any criticism, and they immediately cloak or veil themselves behind spin and automatically blame everything else but their obvious failure. (Russian Pl-238 is the specific example by you.)

spew
Guest
spew
October 11, 2012 8:33 AM
trololololol…actually my narrow-minded view of the world was mocking you by parsing and regurgitating one of your many asinine comments: “Yawn… This is not news. Really. Yet another typical US biassed article touted-out by Universe Today. Have you no shame? Tell you what. Why don’t you show us or write a story on the Russian Plutonium-238 that powers this Rover, that come from one of their old reactors?” An Awesome View of Curiosity’s Tummy I made sure to include a lot of Russian space junk (just the way you like it), wrap in an eloquently succinct two paragraphs (there was a LOT of Russian space junk to feed you; that makes it really difficult), and make sure it… Read more »
SJStar
Guest
SJStar
October 11, 2012 11:47 AM

Plutonium-238 is not a biohazard.

“..a risk to the environment arising from biological work, esp. with microorganisms.”

Plutonium is a metal not a biological / organic substance. Plastic is.

To quote NASA (http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19650024626_1965024626.pdf) itself.

“It should be added in conclusion that if life in not found on Mars, a determination of why this is the case will also add much to our understanding of the nature of life, and the role of planetary evolution in its genesis.”

Get the facts, not the heresay.

spew
Guest
spew
October 11, 2012 3:20 PM

Rofl… you sure are dense.
I don’t care if P-238 is ambrosia for exotic space organisms, I was simply parsing from your asinine comment from a while back.

It’s funny that you’re using NASA as a source.

You have such disdain for anything American that you fling the term with such conviction it seems as if there is envy underneath it all. Where’s your national space program? That’s right, all you do is hang around reading NASA websites. Why don’t you go read about your own country’s space program and try to see if there’s even one to consider lodging a complaint.

spew
Guest
spew
October 11, 2012 8:42 AM

You’re most likely not able to understand what I’m writing because you haven’t gotten the message yet. I am making fun of you, space cadet. This is how the forums regulated themselves. Get used to it. wink

SJStar
Guest
SJStar
October 11, 2012 11:50 AM

Patronising statements like this is no argument but is plainly avoidance of the subject at hand.

spew
Guest
spew
October 11, 2012 3:23 PM

What happens when one whines and is a bigot? You have yourself talking to yourself only. No one is really reading your posts. You should look at the negative ratings you’re incurring; you spend quite a lot of time going around voting down every dissenting argument.

Ken Lord
Guest
October 10, 2012 8:31 PM

Wow, everyone gather around … look at this funny person who has NO CONCEPT of how big space is, and how big planets are. There is no more than a few tons of material sent by us on the entire planet of Mars … but one extra shred of plastic, most likely dropped by Curiosity … AND OMGWTFBBQ we’re killing the UniverSe!!11!!

How much crap does SJStar drop into our environment, intentional or otherwise everyday? Garbage and microbes?

William928
Member
William928
October 10, 2012 11:19 PM

Exhibit A… What exactly do you hope to accomplish with your ceaseless America bashing. It really invalidates the occasional lucid post you manage to create.

SJStar
Guest
SJStar
October 11, 2012 7:55 AM
You guys here clearly don’t get it. Plastic is a pollutant on Mars because of the hydrocarbons it contains. On Mars, UV-radiation with rapidly breakdown the plastic, whose constituents could interfere with any possible hardy life-form – poisson it or interfere with it living processes. Agreed it might be improbable, but what damage a pristine environment suffers is often historically only known after the fact. We want to search for life on Mars, but silly mistakes like this one could make conclusions of a possible discovery in jeopardy. Biohazards are critical issue to space exploration in the solar system, and haphazard mistakes like this just make it more difficult. Humans who wish to explore the universe should at… Read more »
spew
Guest
spew
October 11, 2012 9:13 AM
lol… We understand, space cadet. You’re simply not conveying the message correctly. Here’s some advice AGAIN because you’re not getting it still after many times being told by many. Coming off as a bigot will get you NOWHERE. It doesn’t matter if you’re the smartest guy in the room. You go in to any place and start talking garbage, all we’ll hear is garbage and background noise. If you had argued what you just posted above in the beginning instead of coming here like a cowboy, blazing with your anti-American rhetoric, people would had read and paid more attention to your writing. Newsflash!!! Not all Americans are alike. It’s a very diverse culture. If you’re going to bash… Read more »
SJStar
Guest
SJStar
October 11, 2012 11:23 AM
Someone has to stand up to gross and wanton hypocrisy here. Cultural America is mostly a stinking vacuous self-absorbed backwater, whose once great empire is now on its last knees — both economically and intellectually. It is quite clear you don’t understand the implications of the carelessness of NASA here nor of the importance of behaving morally and ethically when it comes to exploration of this world or beyond. All the “crimes against humanity” ever made are beyond countries, their borders, their empty rhetoric, or even what contributions they may or may not done. Damaging pristine environments is one of them, and although you might think you are getting away with it now, no doubt dreadful failures like… Read more »
spew
Guest
spew
October 11, 2012 1:24 PM
the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.[ Hey, here’s to burst your bubble again, TROLL;what you’re doing is basically categorizing me and all of us here as arrogant Americans, just simply because we are American and you’re too ignorant to understand our culture and it’s diversity. This definition is what the UN defines as racial discrimination. To simply identify someone because of their cultural origins… Read more »
SJStar
Guest
SJStar
October 11, 2012 1:50 PM

Yawn…

spew
Guest
spew
October 11, 2012 2:47 PM

Trolling with moot arguments. Come to the table with some legit arguments, leave behind your bigotry, then you’ll have the respect reciprocated.

spell7
Guest
spell7
October 11, 2012 1:50 PM

I suspect many, if not most, on this site need not YOUR opinions or lectures. They are repetitive, arrogant, condescending, intended to offend and add little to no value to the dialogue. Sounds much like the very accusations you levy against NASA and America, does it not?

SJStar
Guest
SJStar
October 11, 2012 1:56 PM

… I thought you were going to go away. American and mendacious as well. Thanks. You proved my exact point!

spell7
Guest
spell7
October 11, 2012 2:08 PM

I can “go away” if you so desire but I would like to get some value out of the discussion on exploration. By the way, nice vocabulary but inaccurate.

Back to the issue – what is the international acceptable level of risk mitigation that must be achieved before exploration can be allowed?

spew
Guest
spew
October 11, 2012 2:43 PM

You’re a troll. Point proven… next?

spew
Guest
spew
October 11, 2012 3:13 PM

What was your point again? You say America with such conviction it seems as if there is envy underneath it all. Where’s your national space program? That’s right, all you do is hang around reading NASA websites. Why don’t you go read about your own country’s space program and try to see if there’s even one to consider lodging a complaint.

spew
Guest
spew
October 11, 2012 3:27 PM

Funny thing about this “self-absorbed backwater” for a country that is in financial trouble: we’re sending things up into space along with another few select countries and writing about it. You’re reading our websites and posting from them. Rhetorical question (meaning your answer doesn’t matter): Where’s your country’s space program?

Algis Kemezys
Guest
Algis Kemezys
October 10, 2012 2:42 PM

HOLY COW this is fun…

sdf
Guest
sdf
October 10, 2012 9:56 AM

billions of dollars and all we get are some fuzzy black and white images?

Carlos Franco Z.
Guest
October 10, 2012 5:30 PM

uhmm.. maybe they’re hiding some info

Ken Lord
Guest
October 10, 2012 8:33 PM

There’s no dust on the object. There would be if it had sat there for any length of time, even if it came from the descent vehicals.

It came from Curiosity.

Compay Anastacio
Guest
October 10, 2012 8:48 PM

1st photo: bread crumbs, 2nd: pizza topped with frozen mozarella, video: wow!!!!

Olaf
Member
Olaf
October 10, 2012 8:59 PM

Where have all those moron’s gone that complained about the low image quality?
They are awful silent.

Obviously Not Much "Curiosity"
Guest
Obviously Not Much "Curiosity"
October 10, 2012 6:05 PM

Even if the object was something interesting, they would never tell us anyway, so I guess we just have to accept whatever they say or dimiss it as…meh!

Wayne Coolidge
Guest
Wayne Coolidge
October 10, 2012 11:34 PM

They will find something that will completly make threir jaws drop to the floor

David D Robinson
Guest
October 11, 2012 12:35 AM

Not a good sign for the rover engineers. What part of the rover did it come from and why did it come off? The potential for a system failure looms with something like this happening. Did a wire get pinched by the arm? Did debris from the descent rockets hit something? A big question to be answered.

SJStar
Guest
SJStar
October 11, 2012 12:10 PM

NASA takes these matters seriously, and failures by them are equally serious. Not basing opinions on just here-say, those really wanting to positively debate this problem seriously should read NASA’s free book by Michael Meltzer “When Biospheres Collide : A History of NASA’s Planetary Protection Programs.” (2010) at http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4234.pdf

As it says on the inside of the dustcover straight away.

“Each time a space vehicle visits another world it runs the risk of forever changing that extraterrestrial environment.”

This is what I am arguing is central to proper means of space exploration.

spew
Guest
spew
October 11, 2012 1:25 PM

No one cares, troll.

SJStar
Guest
SJStar
October 11, 2012 1:49 PM

Here’s the true definition of cowardice. Losing an argument, and they call you everything under the sun for the failings of their own inadequacies.

Please stop acting as patronising prig!

spew
Guest
spew
October 11, 2012 2:44 PM

No one cares, troll.

spew
Guest
spew
October 11, 2012 2:50 PM

grin

spew
Guest
spew
October 11, 2012 3:01 PM

No one cares about your definition of cowardice, loser. Apparently, respect is reciprocated; you’re deserving of none since you’re a BIGOT. I made my point against your fallacious argument; call it what you want, but yours was rendered moot and you couldn’t come at me with anything more than anti-american slurs. Good job, loser. Great way to lose by convincing others that what you’re offering is nothing of value; what little value you had was tossed when you started off rambling about the injustices of all Americans destroying the universe. Keep convincing yourself that people are listening.

spell7
Guest
spell7
October 11, 2012 1:56 PM

Are you proposing that we cease space exploration (with the exception of passive methods) until someone can develop systems that guarantee 100% risk mitigation? If so, do you realistically expect such a goal can be accomplished?

SJStar
Guest
SJStar
October 11, 2012 2:08 PM

No. I’ve never said nor do I think that.

spell7
Guest
spell7
October 12, 2012 2:19 PM

You may not have made that exact statement but your posts in general give that impression. Perhaps you are more critical simply because the organization is NASA and based in the USA? What role do you or the international community see as appropriate for NASA?

SJStar
Guest
SJStar
October 14, 2012 5:13 AM

Get stuffed!

spell7
Guest
spell7
October 15, 2012 2:28 PM

Bear with me – I can be a little slow about these things. Consider me sufficiently stuffed as well.

I take your response to indicate you, or the international community, feel there is no viable role for NASA and by extension the USA in space exploration. If my interpretation is correct, then we can move forward on the discussion of risk mitigation for the exploration of planets and moons in our solar system. If I am incorrect, please clarify so I can better understand the frame of this discussion.

Robert Betz
Guest
October 11, 2012 12:55 PM

lol I could swear it looks like a cross between a cicada and a shrimp. If you look closely it even looks like two antennae sticking out from the left side of it.

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