On Mars, a mysterious rock has unexpectedly appeared in front of the motionless Opportunity rover and has scientists here on Earth stumped in surprise. The rover, which has been up on the Red Planet since Jan. 24, of 2004, has been motionless for over a month because researchers are wanting more promising weather conditions. The rover is presently sitting at the rim of one of the bigger Mars craters. A black and white photograph, which was taken on Jan. 8, shows a rock close to the rover that had not been there just four days prior and scientists do not have a clue where the stone showed up from.
The rover was ending up doing analysis around the Cape Darby region of Mars before moving toward what the team thought would be Opportunity’s winter position. While preparing to begin the robotic arm to work on the target area of Cape Elizabeth Jan. 8, the rover met the surprise. The rock showed up in the images and it had not been in any of them before. The object is being called Pinnacle Island and it will be the target of much examination over the next couple of days.
NASA wants to figure out how the rock got there in the first place. Two theories have been estimated to determine the arrival of this unexpected surperise. Either the Opportunity somehow managed to turn up the stone while it was moving over Mars’s surface, or the rock was blown right out of the ground by a meteorite impact and happened to land next to the rover. It is mostly thought that the rover is to blame for the rock’s sudden appearance, although NASA admits that is just a guess. Apparently, the Opportunity’s front right steering has become out of commission, and that could have somehow caused the large stone to become dislodged and caused it to land in the position it is showing up in.
Whatever the explanation is of how the rock got in that position might never be solved, but scientists have decided to use the chance to study it anyway. It seems that the rock is upside down, so it is showing a side of the Red Planet that has never been seen by anyone on Earth. This is giving researchers the opportunity to examine and see what secrets are hidden inside.
Maybe the most interesting part of this whole thing is the Opportunity rover itself. The robot was initially sent to the Red Planet to do a mission for three months. However it is still going strong a decade later. It has been able to rack up 24 miles on its little odometer so far and it does not have any signs of slowing down as of this time. Its sibling rover, Spirit, ended up giving in to the Martian elements back in 2009, when it became stuck in a sand trap in a large crater. It stopped sending back any messages in 2010.
The mysterious rock that has unexpectedly appeared in front of the motionless Opportunity rover on Mars has scientists here on Earth stumped in surprise.
By Kimberly Ruble