NASA’s Perseverance rover is searching for traces of alien life on Mars, but it is also stumbling across plenty of Earth trash during its travels. For instance, the rover recently came across a weird clump of string resembling Martian tumbleweed, which likely blew off of the descent vehicle that delivered it to the red planet in February 2021, according to CNET.
Perseverance snapped a shot of the noodly object last Tuesday using a hazard camera mounted on its front right side. The discovery follows similar images of a scrap of the thermal blanket that the rover spotted last month, which served as a shield during the mission’s entry, descent, and landing sequence, a series of maneuvers so nerve-wracking that it is known as the “seven minutes of terror.”
Ingenuity, a small helicopter that arrived on Mars with Perseverance, has also captured extensive aerial images of the smashed descent stage. The helicopter, which is the first aircraft to perform powered flight on another planet, captured the wreckage during its 26th cruise over the Martian surface in April. The images revealed the remains of the vehicle’s supersonic parachutes and backshell, which is part of the jet-powered stage that carefully lowered Perseverance on Mars.
The mission’s series of encounters with its own space junk—or Martian artifacts, if you prefer—offer a reminder that our expanding presence off Earth includes the spent parts that we leave on extraterrestrial surfaces. But in exchange for being mild interplanetary litterbugs, Perseverance and its predecessor, Curiosity, are discovering plenty of new insights and weird natural objects on Mars, enabling us to experience otherworldly vistas through the eyes of our robotic explorers.