Trash on Mars? NASA finds human junk on red planet

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The Mars Perseverance Rover, seen here in this earlier concept illustration, took a photograph of what appeared to be a piece of its own thermal blanket, which was shed upon landing in Feb. 2021 — and more than a mile away from where it is now. (Photo illustration by NASA via Getty Images)

MARS (KXAN) – It took us a few decades, but we’ve finally done it. We have officially left our trash on another planet. Last week, NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover team tweeted a startling discovery:

A piece of metal debris lays among red rocks.
The Mars Perseverance Rover caught a photo of debris left over after it landed on the planet. Scientists aren’t sure how it got there. (Courtesy: NASA)

“My team has spotted something unexpected: It’s a piece of a thermal blanket that they think may have come from my descent stage, the rocket-powered jet pack that set me down on landing day back in 2021.”

@NASAPersevere

The piece of space junk is a large sheet of thermal blanket. The photo was captured by Perseverance Rover’s Right Mastcam-Z camera. These cameras are located on the Rover’s mast. It was taken on June 13th at around 10:05 UTC.

The sheet landed about 1.2 miles from where Perseverance set down in February of last year. The space agency said in a follow-up tweet that they weren’t sure how the piece got that far away from the landing site.

A piece of metal debris lays among red rocks.
The debris is left over from Perseverance’s landing on the planet in February 2021. (Courtesy: NASA)

What is the Mars Perseverance mission?

The Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover was sent to the planet to find signs of microbial life, according to NASA. The mission will also help determine if humans can live on the dead red rock. The rover landed on the planet on February 18th, 2021, and was to spend one Martian year — that’s about 687 Earth days — exploring Mars.

While exploring, the rover will find “compelling rocks.” These rocks consist of anything that looks like they were formed or altered by water. These rocks would have chemical signs of the building blocks of life, according to NASA.

The rover will then collect the rock samples, seal them up, and leave them to be collected at a later time. The rover can collect up to 30 rock samples from across the planet.

Finally, the rover will test oxygen production on the planet. These tests will be essential for possible colonization in the future. The rover can also monitor dust and weather on the planet’s surface.

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