Curiosity Finds…SOMETHING…on Martian Surface

Article written: 9 Oct , 2012
Updated: 23 Dec , 2015

While scooping its first samples of Martian soil, NASA’s Curiosity rover captured the image above, which shows what seems to be a small, seemingly metallic sliver or chip of… something… resting on the ground. Is it a piece of the rover? Or some other discarded fleck of the MSL descent mechanisms? Or perhaps an exotic Martian pebble of some sort? Nobody knows for sure yet, but needless to say the soil samples have taken a back seat to this new finding for the time being.

See a ChemCam image of the object below.

ChemCam shot of a recently spotted unknown object on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The ChemCam image, although monochrome, reveals some interesting and curiously organic-looking edges on the object… although it could be a bit of something that came loose from the rover itself. Perhaps a bit of plastic wrap or tape from a cable? Or a flake of metal from the back shell?

Or, as MSNBC’s Alan Boyle jokingly (?) suggested, another piece of “Martian macaroni”?

The MSL mission page states:

Curiosity’s first scooping activity appeared to go well on Oct. 7. Subsequently, the rover team decided to refrain from using the rover’s robotic arm on Oct. 8 due to the detection of a bright object on the ground that might be a piece from the rover. Instead of arm activities during the 62nd Martian day, or sol, of the mission, Curiosity is acquiring additional imaging of the object to aid the team in identifying the object and assessing possible impact, if any, to sampling activities.

Stay tuned for more info on this intriguing news as it’s available!

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

P.S. Of course, the now-famous “Sarcastic Rover” had something to say about it on Twitter:

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76 Responses

  1. Andres Minas says

    …or an insect that somehow got in while the robot was in training maneuver on Earth soil.

    • Arthür Täylør says

      Do you honestly think that could happen? Blimey. (////,)

      • Andres Minas says

        “…curiously organic-looking on the edges on the object”, the article said.

        For clarity maybe, I could have added smiley at the end of my first comment 🙂

  2. When you look at the scoop, it appears that it is chipped in one corner, kind of matching the piece of metal. Just a guess.

  3. John Stock says

    This will be on ATS within seconds with some strange and fantastical UFO / Alien / NWO conspiracy theory lol

  4. Doc M says

    It looks like a sheared-off clip / staple from a cable. Although I like the ‘lost earring’ theory . . .

  5. Tom Watson says

    oh god… the nutters are going to spazz out on this…

  6. Amanda Barott says

  7. Kent West says

    It’s a street-light!

  8. tell me about that filter…

  9. Okay, that’s interesting. I’m assuming in the end it will be innocuous – but it’s certainly weird and merits closer scrutiny.

  10. Look closely, is’t chewing gum?

  11. Michael Henley says

    maybe it’s a Alien Nano-bot!

  12. Dav_Daddy says

    If only it could turn out to be some kind of Martian bling. I bet that we’d get a manned mission their b4 2035 then!

  13. Torbjörn Larsson says

    It isn’t the first craft to go to pieces.

    More seriously, an 8 g shaking would get rid of remaining scrap in the mechanisms.

  14. TonyMach says

    A piece of Mars Climate Orbiter.

  15. R.K. says

    You Know? There is something just not right with that photo!! It is like a studio type photo; like it is a artificial type of photo from a studio/lab sort of! It does “not” appear real from Mars! The sand is tooooo uniform like it’s been raked, etc!

  16. newSteveZodiac says

    Maybe it’s a piece of disintegrated Russian Mars lander

  17. Lin Group says

    Looks like perry the platypus to me

  18. Fahad says

    I think Transformers live there.

  19. NASA sent to Mars exploration ship. move the ship to go low altitude Mars. this ship should be named SRGPORToriGem. vai vai name identifying receive a communication.

  20. all the tech on hand JPL and NASA and you can’t tell if that belonged to anything of our probes or rovers? Come on now, isn’t every part on anything we ever sent out to space numbered? I mean every vehicle we send is gone over with a fine tooth comb, is it near any of the crash site of any man made object? That would be my first question. I know you guys probably can magnify that a lot more than what we’re seeing. Does it look like it fell of anything of ours or the Russians. Now those guys sadly to say lost a lot almost all of their vehicles.

    • andy andy says

      It’s not a part, it’s a chip, like something chipped off of a part. Unless you expect them to number every single square micrometer of every single part in the thing, no, they’re not numbered. Also, this is Mars, not Earth. Things aren’t mapped out to the point that you can pull up Google Mars Maps, turn on street view, and say “oh, yea, that’s where the probe landed 10 years ago.” You’re right that JPL and NASA have a lot of smart people doing a lot of smart things, do you really think some armchair scientist is going to provide any real insight on something that he thought of in the 3 minutes it took to read the article?

  21. POBOs says

    If something is 1 light year away then it takes 1 light year to get there and nothing is faster.

    What if you had a pole long enough to reach a button 1 light year away then pushed it, does that mean the push reaches 1 light year away faster than light can get there?

  22. Richard_Kirk says

    The object has a straight-looking edge on the left-hand side in the photo. This suggests it is a chip off some rover part.

    However, for me the most interesting aspect is that Curiosity found this tiny thing on one of its 17 cameras, and it now has a whole set of tools which should reveal what it might be too. One of the arguments for manned missions was that a human on site might pick things that a remote-controlled robot might miss. A few more missions like this, and manned mission proposals might look like old science fiction.

    • How many days has msl been on Mars before this? How far has it travelled? Think about how much more ground people on Mars couldve covered in the same amount if time, how much better analysis could be done in a real lab, and tgen about all of the other capabilities, such as drilling, a human expedition would have that a robotic one doesnt

      • Richard_Kirk says

        There is no rush. Curiosity does not have to breathe, drink, feed, or sleep like a human team. It does not have to plan for the return journey, or suffer the side-effects of reduced gravity and increased radiation. If it dropped this thing, it will probably drop less than a human team would. It can explore for years. And all the time, we get to watch.

      • Angelo Castellani says

        If we send as much stuff down as we would have needed to for the type of manned team you are talking about we could have landed a dozen or so Curiousity rovers across the surface of the planet.

  23. What’s even more amazing is the pathetic manufacturing engineer who forgot to trim the zip ties.

    • NO YOU says

      Actually, you don’t want to clip the zip ties due to the expansion and contraction of the plastic in space. Going from 80 degrees to -150. So, please learn something before looking like an idiot.

      • That’s the stupidest thing I’ve read today. Don’t clip the zip ties because of expansion? Tensile strength of the zip ties would be specified and the zip ties tightened to a point in order to allow for contraction and expansion. Trimming the zip ties would not present a problem.

    • Dpd126 says

      Uhh you do know that they don’t use zip ties, right? It’s all knotted, that’s why you see some cord ends in the pictures. See also

  24. Xpto estampagem e impressão says

    Hummm I’m pretty sure that is Jimmy Hoffa…

    • Michael McFadden says

      Xpto, I think you’ve GOT IT! (unless it’s a shred of clothing from Nicole Simpson’s “real killer.”)

  25. I’m going right to R.C.H.’s Enterprise Mission website to get the REAL story on this one!!!

  26. I can just imagine a comedy sketch of some alien dude 20 minutes prior, strolling along eating an ‘Earth Bar’ and a piece of his wrapper fell onto the floor. “An Earrrth a Day helps you la la lalaaaaaaa”

  27. rcrdcsnv says

    The push generates a compression wave that travels along the pole. The speed of that wave is the speed of sound within that pole, so it depends on the density of what the pole is made from, but an infinitely dense pole would have a speed of sound equal to the speed of light.
    tl;dr: the push takes as long to reach the other end at the speed of sound.

  28. It’s a screw. Curiosity is falling apart:

  29. NoAstronomer says


    Because the interactions between the atoms that make up the pole are still carried by photons which, as you’ve pointed out, only travel at the speed of light.

  30. Kawarthajon says

    At first glance and in colour it looked to me like a screw. Seeing the monochrome pic, I’m not sure.

  31. sidray says

    h yeah, had to be done.

  32. Bill Smith says

    But will it still be there in the morning of the next SOL? (fade out with music from Twighlight Zone)

  33. I bet it’s a foil from inside a cigarette pack. I find those everywhere.

  34. youre an idiot. You might not realize it. But you are.

  35. D says

    A piece of heat shrink tubing…

  36. It does’nt look like a screw or anything like one on the ChemCam, it looks more like fabric or like the skin off something, Not that im suggesting it’s from an alien life form, but that’s how it looks to me.

  37. zebur says

    Who has a screwdriver?!>

  38. Leukegast says

    I knew it!

  39. John Panek says

    oh hell! its a toenail.

  40. Kim Ber Lee B. says

    It looks like Snookie’s fake fingernail… let’s run tests..

  41. Adheeb says

    “The ChemCam image, although monochrome, reveals some interesting and curiously organic-looking edges on the object… although it could be a bit of something that came loose from the rover itself. Perhaps a bit of plastic wrap or tape from a cable? Or a flake of metal from the back shell?

    “curiously organic-looking” How can a metal flake look ‘curiously organic’??? Me thinks you ‘see’ what you want to see. And they call this science?

    Read more:

  42. i reckon it is a piece of debris from one of the many earlier space craft that broke up on mars re-entry over the past few decades.

  43. Tim Mackey says

    it could be a part of Beagle 2…

  44. Guy Grenon says

    looks like a piece of the parachute,or a grasshopper skin ???

  45. Flechette says

    I am very surprised to see wire bundles exposed to the elements. It looks like there are all kinds of nooks and crannies for dust to clog up!

  46. kNd says

    2k12 2MPIX CAM – curiosity killed cat

  47. Alanator says

    Show me a pole that is one light year long, and I will attempt to answer your question! 🙂

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