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Rock ‘hitchhiking’ robot probes Mars for 4 months

A small rock entered the front wheel of the Perseverance probe robot and became a companion during its more than 8.5 km journey.

Perseverance's Hazcams camera captured a rock stuck in the robot's wheel.  Photo: NASA

Perseverance’s Hazcams camera captured a rock stuck in the robot’s wheel. Image: NASA

After landing in the Jezero crater in February 2021, NASA’s Perseverance probe began collecting soil samples on the red planet and looking for signs of ancient life. A year later, this car-sized 6-wheeled robot suddenly had a “companion”.

In early February 2022, a small rock somehow got into the left front wheel of Perseverance and was transported more than 8.5 km during the past 4 months without being thrown out, despite the action. The process is “certainly bumpy,” NASA stressed.

This isn’t the first time Martian rock has hitched a ride on NASA’s exploratory mission. About 18 years ago, a stone the size of a potato also entered the right rear wheel of the self-propelled robot Spirit, but fell off after only a few weeks.

Perseverance robot simulation looking for signs of ancient life on Mars.  Photo: NASA

Perseverance robot simulator searching for ancient signs of life on the red planet. Image: NASA

NASA spokesman Andrew Good said that the rock stuck in the front wheel of Perseverance did not cause any damage and will continue to accompany the robot in the near future. Astronomers aren’t sure when it will end its journey.

“The rock could fall off at some point as Perseverance climbs the rim of the impact crater. If that happens, it will land among rocks that we would expect to be very different from itself.” , said NASA.

Doan Duong (Follow NASA/Insider)

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