Mars is a lonely place, and it just got a little lonelier for one rover. NASA’s Perseverance has parted ways with a lumpy stone that has been its companion for more than a year.
Last spring, a photo of one of Perseverance’s wheels revealed a small rock along for the ride. A recently captured image, however, shows a lonely aluminum wheel without the stowaway that had been stuck there all these months. The sad news was confirmed on Twitter by Gwénaël Caravaca, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, who bid farewell to Percy’s pet rock.
The rock had gained somewhat of a cult following, as fans followed the adventures of the rover and its little friend. Those fans reacted to the news by comparing the rock to Wilson, the famous red-faced volleyball that became Tom Hanks’ companion in the movie Cast Away before being lost at sea. One Twitter user wrote, “We all knew this day could come, but still...”
Perseverance’s pet rock was discovered in an image captured on February 25, 2022, and later kept reappearing in the rover’s selfies. Percy’s pet rock spent a total of 427 Martian days cradled inside the wheel, traveling around 6 miles (10 kilometers) across the Martian terrain.
At the time, NASA determined that the rock didn’t pose a risk to Perseverance and that it would eventually fall out. It took over a year, but that prediction has come true.
Perseverance still has a companion on Mars, however: the Ingenuity helicopter. This tiny chopper just won’t quit, recently logging its 50th flight on the surface of Mars, when it was originally planned to perform just five short hops. The rover captured a new close-up image of Ingenuity this month.
Ingenuity does have its good qualities, but we still need some time to get over the loss of Rocky.