On Mars, Perseverance has found an unexpected companion!

Perseverance is currently separated from Ingenuity, his lifelong sidekick, but he has found a Pet Rock to keep him company.

Fascinating as they are, Mars’ crimson deserts are not teeming with activity; when not moving or studying the surrounding terrain, rovers like Curiosity or Perseverance need to find the time long.

The latter can certainly count on its lifelong sidekick, the Ingenuity helicopter. But right now, this brave little machine is temporarily grounded after a fault in its inclinometer (see our article). Persistence is therefore deprived of its own liberation in its exploration of the Jezero crater delta … or almost; NASA has just revealed that he is currently traveling with an unexpected companion hitchhiking!

Persistence has a stone in the shoe

On the other hand, it is not a question of a little green man who would have hidden there to mock this hunter of extraterrestrial life … but rather of a stone stuck in his shoes – or rather in his left front wheel …

This is a situation that can quickly become problematic, as evidenced by an episode that took place on December 29, 2021. Some gravel had managed to find its way into Perseverance’s chassis. They then threatened to damage some of the tools used to take samples.

However, the nearest robot hospital was on Earth, about 200 million kilometers away. The rover was therefore forced to operate on itself; he had to disassemble his own arm to identify the problem (see NASA article). An anecdote that would almost recall the story of Leonid Rogozov, this Russian doctor who had to perform an appendix operation on himself in the absence of another doctor at the Antarctic base where he lived.

A stone hitchhiker has boarded Perseverance! © Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech

A real road movie Marsmand

To avoid this kind of accident, the wheels are specially designed to allow sand and minerals to pass through to prevent them from getting stuck. But that did not stop this stone from falling well – and has not shaken since! Fortunately, this small piece of stone turned out to be much less problematic than the previous ones and poses no risk to Perseverance’s equipment.

The stone therefore found itself driven to the rank of protagonist in a unique remake of the big mop; it has already been going on for four months and has allowed him to cover 8.5 kilometers. And in this time interval, the robot’s new Pet Rock has been at the forefront of attending certain important stages of the mission.

Under this realroad buddy movie“While the Americans are raving about it, he could enjoy the supposedly volcanic rocks of the Máaz Formation, observe the spectacular rock formations at Kodiak Point, or even become aware of the enormous extent of the delta as Perseverance approached the edge of the crater.

The delta front on the edge of the Jezero crater, where NASA hopes to find traces of past lives. © NASA / JPL-Caltech

The hitchhiker must fasten his seat belt

It now remains to be seen what will become of this unexpected companion. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that he will keep Perseverance with company until the end of his journey. In fact, the rover will soon attack the ascent of the steep sides of the delta, which borders the crater from Jezero; an area that is the main purpose of its mission and where NASA hopes to find traces of past lives.

Due to the considerable propensity, there is a good chance that his passengers will find themselves expelled at the end of the first left turn … This will mark the end of a miniseries that is certainly completely anecdotal, but still very entertaining. . The stone will then be located at the foot of the slope, right in the middle of other minerals, whose composition and structure will certainly be very different … enough to leave future Mars explorers confused. A view that greatly amuses NASA.

If you’re a Mars geologist reading this in the future, beware: If you find a rock that does not look out of place, it might just be Perseverance’s old Pet Rock!

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