Few things are more aggravating than a stone stuck in your shoe that refuses to move. As the rover Perseverance discovered, this incredibly Earthly issue is also a problem on Mars. On February 25, 2022, the rover’s Onboard Front Left Hazard Avoidance Camera snapped a tiny pebble caught within one of the rover’s six aluminum wheels. It looks to have been there since at least February 6, according to C|Net writer Amanda Kooser’s investigation through NASA’s raw pictures. The rover most likely kicked it up while trudging about Jezero Crater, which it has been exploring since February of last year.
Isn’t it possible for Percy to simply kick it out? It was photographed again on March 2, indicating that it isn’t obstructing the rover’s progress, although it does appear to be adding to its traveling companions. It’s conceivable that Perseverance picked up the pebble on her first extended AutoNav journey. Using its auto-navigation feature, the rover set a new record for the longest distance traveled by a Mars rover in a single day, traveling 320 meters (1,050 ft) in February.
Perseverance is the “largest, heaviest, cleanest, and most sophisticated six-wheeled robotic geologist ever launched into space,” therefore the rock is unlikely to harm the rover’s function. Its wheels, which are 52 centimeters (20.4 inches) broad and include titanium spokes to endure regolith from another planet, are meant to withstand the wear and tear witnessed on Curiosity’s. It’s nothing more than a rock.
“It’s not seen as a danger.” “We’ve seen this kind of boulders get ‘caught’ in Curiosity’s wheels before,” a JPL official told Gizmodo. “They happen during cross-slope drives, and they usually fall out on their own after a while (there’s no way to get this rock out of our shoes).” These boulders have little effect on driving except to make it a little louder.”
So, will Percy return home with its tiny vacation companion? Percy isn’t coming home, gulp. It is, however, gathering rock samples to return to Earth, with a projected launch date of 2026 and a return date of 2031. Let’s hope NASA scientists get their hands on those Mars rock samples sooner than they did their lunar samples; we’d want to be around to see what they find.