While grabbing its first scoop of Martian soil, the Mars Curiosity Rover team noticed a weird thing, something that was not supposed to be there: a bright object on the ground. What is it? NASA's scientists don't know yet.
The image—taken by the right Mast Camera during the mission's 61st Martian day—shows Curiosity's robotic arm's scoop full of sand and dust, waiting to be deposited inside its analysis unit. But, after looking closer at the photo, someone noticed that unusual bright piece.
The scooping operation was then halted and the rover was instructed to take a closer look of the object, which hasn't arrived yet to ground control.
NASA suspects that this may be piece of rover hardware, but they are not sure yet. Can it be some screw that got loose and fell off the rover? Just in case, Curiosity's team will wait until they get the close up of the object. That will help them "in assessing possible impact, if any, to sampling activities."
If it is a piece of the rover, I wonder how a lost piece can affect the rover's functions. JPL hasn't said anything about it yet.
The Mars Curiosity Rover landed successfully in Mars on August 6, 2012. So far, its operation has been flawless. [NASA]
Original image. Click to enlarge