The object that NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover found on Sunday is probably a piece of plastic that fell off the unmanned exploration vehicle. According to mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at Pasadena, California, the object is “benign” and poses no likely threat to continuing the mission. However, the JPL rover team has not yet definitely identified the object and will continue investigating for another day.

The 4x4-sized Curiosity was gathering a soil sample when the object was sighted on October 7. Yesterday, the rover team used Curiosity’s Remote Micro-Imager of the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument to take a closer look at the object and determined that is was a bit of the Curiosity and most likely a shred of plastic and “not Martian material.”

Curiosity was collecting soil samples when the object was sighted (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LAN)

If the team is satisfied with the conclusions, Curiosity will continue with processing the soil sample that it collected and still holds in its scoop. Meanwhile, it will carry out imaging of the immediate area.

Source: NASA