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Curiosity suspends sampling, may have dropped a bit of itself


October 9, 2012

Image from Curiosity showing the bright object in the foreground (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Image from Curiosity showing the bright object in the foreground (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Image Gallery (3 images)

NASA’s unmanned Mars rover Curiosity took a pause in its activities after spotting a bright object. As yet unidentified, it was spotted while Curiosity was collecting its first soil samples. Fearing that the object might be a part of Curiosity itself that fell off, mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California has suspended Curiosity’s exploration until the object is identified.

First sighted by Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam), the object is very small, but quite shiny and metallic. It may be a bit of mineral that shines, such as quartz, or it could be a bit of Curiosity itself. Since repair a hundred million miles from the nearest garage is not an option, JPL must determine if it is a rover part, whether its loss is important and if a workaround needs to be devised to make up for the loss. As part of this, JPL has instructed Curiosity to take a new series of images of the area in hopes of finding the answers.

Since landing on Mars on August 6, the nuclear-powered Curiosity has begun its two-year mission to explore Mars in search of sites where life might have or still does exist. Since landing, mission control at JPL has put the robot explorer through a rigorous three-week shakedown followed by a series of test drives. During this time, Curiosity fired its rock-vaporizing laser, streamed the first human voice from another planet, wrote messages in the Martian soil, gave itself a thorough self-examination, studied its first rock using its robotic arm, investigated an ancient stream bed, made the first foursquare check-in from another planet and prepared its internal laboratories to receive soil samples.

The video below shows Curiosity taking its first soil samples.

Source: NASA

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

Its a cigarette butt but the rover was embarassed to tell Nasa it had taken a fag break :)

Rocky Stefano

So now we have to send a human up there to pick up the pieces ?


Gee, thanks, guys! You shouldn't have gone to all that trouble on my account. That's the missing rivet off the door handle of my Titan Space-tripper - fell off last summer as we were leaving. Have you any idea how expensive it is to replace them? - really tuff stuff. The earth-available options are really substandard by comparison.


I'd love to think there is a Martian with a sense of humour!

Mike Hallett

Well! If there was ever any doubt about life on Mars, this cinches it. There has to be life on Mars. Otherwise, who put the little arrow there to show us the shiny piece?


Put it back down!! it's the "Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator"


Are those wire bread sack ties holding the wire bundles together? NASA couldn't spring for something a bit more exotic like zip ties?

Gregg Eshelman
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