Spaghetti? String cheese? Landing debris? The last one, probably, but either way, NASA’s Perseverance rover spotted it on the surface of Mars, and the internet wants answers.
The photo of the stringy object (seen below), nestled in the sand between some unassuming Martian rocks, was taken by Perseverance on July 12, 2022, the 495th day of the rover’s ongoing mission to study the Red Planet .
The photo can be seen below, in addition to another image taken from a different vantage point which helps convey the scale of the object as it sits directly under Perseverance, near its wheels.
We don’t know what the object is. Close inspection shows it looks like a bundle of string, raising the question of how it got there.
Either way, it didn’t take long for the image to catch the public’s attention. Just days after the object went live, social media users demanded to know more. Most, of course, were making jokes, many of them comparing the object to a packet of spaghetti. You could also say it looks like string cheese.
“I knew the Martians were Italian!” an user wrote.
“Knees are weak, palms are sweaty, there’s already dust on my solar panels, spaghetti from Mars,” wrote another, echoing Eminem’s well-remembered verse.
During this time, the item’s image has risen to become Perseverance’s image of the week, which is decided via a weekly public vote.
CNET media reported that the most likely explanation is that the object is a bit of debris released by Perseverance itself, possibly during its February 2021 parachute-assisted landing maneuver.
It wouldn’t be the first time this had happened.
In April this year, Perseverance located the parachute it was using to land on Mars. Then in June, the rover also discovered a piece of shiny aluminum foil used as Perseverance’s thermal blanket during its descent.
“It’s a surprise to find this here”, official Twitter account of the rover wrote at the time. “My descent stage crashed about 2 km (1.2 miles). Did this piece land here after that, or was it blown here?”
Whatever spaghetti-shaped object was recently discovered, what is currently missing is an official NASA explanation. Newsweek contacted the space agency for comment.
Mysterious Martian images taken by Perseverance or its former robotic colleague Curiosity often quickly arouse public interest.
Earlier this year there was a lot of speculation about what appeared to be a doorway in a Martian rock and another image that appeared to show an elongated humanoid form. On the latter, NASA scientist Mitch Schulte said Newsweek when Mars was considered completely inhospitable to life as we know it today.