After spending more than a year together on Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover and its traveling “pet rock” have finally parted ways. Despite many strenuous attempts to remove it, the rock had lodged in the rover’s front left wheel on its 341st Martian day and accompanied it for more than half of its stay on the Red Planet. Although the rock did not endanger the rover’s scientific mission, it occasionally interfered with photography. Hitchhiking rocks has caused problems for other Mars rovers, but Perseverance has managed to continue its mission successfully.
The backstory of the “Pet Rock”!
On February 4th, 2022 or Sol 341, Perseverance rover inadvertently acquired a pet rock lodged in its front left wheel. Although the rock did not pose a threat to the rover’s scientific objectives, it intermittently disrupted images and persisted despite attempts to dislodge it through various forceful maneuvers. The situation was aptly compared by mission scientists to “having a pebble stuck in your shoe.”
A Perseverance student collaborator from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Eleni Ravanis wrote a mission update. According to Ravanis: “If this pet rock could talk, it might tell us about the changes it’s noticed as we traveled back north through the Octavia E. Butler landing site, and then west, passing the spectacular remains of the former extent of the delta, ‘Kodiak,’ on our journey to the western Jezero delta,”.
NASA’s Perseverance rover has successfully dislodged a rock that had become lodged in its front left wheel for over a year, akin to a pebble stuck in a shoe. The rock had accompanied the rover for more than half of its mission on Mars. However, this will not be posing any obstacle to the rover’s mission. This separation marks the end of an interesting hitchhiking experience for the rock, and a continued successful mission for the Perseverance rover.
Farewell “Rock Friend” 🫂
We found out in latest Hazcam we have lost our pet rock in the front left wheel of @NASAPersevere
It spent 427 Sols with us (more than an Earth year!), and traveled about 10 km since Sol 341😳
Farewell Rock Friend, you will be missed! pic.twitter.com/C0WywiwicP
— Dr. Gwénaël Caravaca 🔴 ⛏ (@GCC_Mars) April 20, 2023
NASA released an image on April 18 (Sol 768) which shows the front left wheel of the Perseverance rover. The image indicates the lodged rock had been dislodged. The rock had been present in the rover’s wheel for approximately 439 days or 427 sols, which accounts for about 55% of the time that the Perseverance rover has been on Mars since its touchdown on February 18, 2021. During their time together, the two of them walked about 6.2 miles (10 kilometers). It is noteworthy that a sol, or a Martian day, is 37 minutes longer than an Earth day.
Throughout its mission, the Perseverance rover has accumulated multiple smaller rocks in its various wheels. Yet, all of these were dislodged within a few days or weeks of becoming stuck and did not pose any danger to the rover. But it should be said that rocks that got stuck in other parts of the rover have caused problems in the past.
In December 2021, Perseverance inner machinery was impeded by a cluster of small pebbles, resulting in the rover shutting down for almost a week. Mission scientists had to carefully analyze the situation to determine the best course of action for safely removing the obstructions before the rover could resume its operations.
Now we should also keep this in mind,
Other Rovers who faced the same problems:
The phenomenon of hitchhiking rocks has caused plenty of difficulties for other Mars rovers as well. Just like in December 2004, the operators of NASA’s Spirit rover had to execute a sharp turn to dislodge a “potato-sized” stone from its right-rear wheel. This action was taken because mission scientists were concerned that the rock could cause severe damage to the rover, as confirmed by NASA.
Published by: Sky Headlines