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Mars NASA Space

Mystery Rock 'Appears' In Front of Mars Rover 112

astroengine writes "After a decade of exploring the Martian surface, the scientists overseeing veteran rover Opportunity thought they'd seen it all. That was until a rock mysteriously 'appeared' a few feet in front of the six wheeled rover a few days ago. News of the errant rock was announced by NASA Mars Exploration Rover lead scientist Steve Squyres of Cornell University at a special NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory '10 years of roving Mars' event at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, Calif., on Thursday night. The rock, about 'the size of a jelly doughnut' according to Squyres, is thought to have either come from a freak "flipping" event or a very recent meteorite impact. However, the latter isn't thought to be very likely. Although they are still working on the rock's origin, the rover team believe it was 'tiddlywinked' by Opportunity's broken wheel; as the rover was turning on the spot, the rock was kicked from place under the wheel and flipped a few feet away from the rover. Never missing a science opportunity, Squyres told Discovery News, 'It obligingly turned upside down, so we're seeing a side that hasn't seen the Martian atmosphere in billions of years and there it is for us to investigate. It's just a stroke of luck.'"
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Mystery Rock 'Appears' In Front of Mars Rover

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  • by Shadowmist ( 57488 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @07:32PM (#45993149)
    While Martian winds may kick up some respectable velocity as far as feet per second, remember it's blowing around an extremely tenuous close to non-existent atmosphere. A martian wind may kick up to four hundred miles an hour, but if you were standing in it it would be no more force to you than a 25 mile per hour gust on Earth.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:25PM (#45994327) Homepage

    I'm just dumbfounded at the implication here that the rover's ability to flip a small rock is regarded as luck. If it's such a valuable occurrence, should they not have included a rock-flipping function in the plans?

    Well, maybe it's not as trivial as it sounds to fit an appropriate robotic arm, the sensors to find a suitable rock, the software to try grabbing it and turning it over and compared to the weight, time and effort it's probably just not worth it. Assuming this is really the first time it's happened in the practically ten years (a week left) it's been on Mars it's somewhat of a freak accident, just the right size and shape stone was caught in the wheels in just the right way to flip it over. It's like a free bonus that you weren't even trying to get, isn't that lucky?

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe