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Mystery Rock 'Appears' In Front of Mars Rover

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the stop-throwing-rocks-at-our-rover-you-damn-martian-kids dept.

Mars 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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112 comments

I know what this is!!!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991083)

I bet it's a rock.

Re:I know what this is!!!! (3, Funny)

Fwipp (1473271) | about 3 months ago | (#45991119)

Not just any rock.

An ~~alien~~ rock. From space!

Re:I know what this is!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991205)

It is just a space peanut

Re:I know what this is!!!! (2)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 3 months ago | (#45991453)

Many of the newest buildings are not just utilitarian offices but also edifices "on the order of the pyramids," in the words of one senior military intelligence officer.

Rectums R Us (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991303)

It's time. It's time, my fellow Slashdotters! It's time for the fiesta of the ages! The feces fiesta! There's a feces party going on right now in my rancid rectum, and all your fetid, disease-ridden penises are invited! What sort of concoction would be created if we sent your sticky tadpole army right into the deepest reaches of my feces? Let's find out! What say you?

Re:I know what this is!!!! (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 3 months ago | (#45993001)

An ~~alien~~ rock. From space!

Space not included, sorry.

From TFA:

... 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

Or, in other words, next time we send up rovers to other planets we outfit 'em with specialized wheels that can flip up rocks while turning.

Re:I know what this is!!!! (1)

Velox_SwiftFox (57902) | about 3 months ago | (#45993807)

The goal of space rover wheel design is probably going to remain being efficient propelling devices, but in the spirit of your suggestion's practicality maybe this will influence the mudflap design of future missions to the fetid swamps of Venus.

Re:I know what this is!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991399)

No, that's a "Grignak". That's what you get when the rover starts looking for a beryllium sphere.

Re:I know what this is!!!! (1)

klubar (591384) | about 3 months ago | (#45991623)

I'd bet it's a jelly donut. If it's about the size of a jelly donut, it's probably a jelly donut. Not a good time to speed as there's probably a cop nearby.

Re:I know what this is!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45992163)

cop poop?

Re:I know what this is!!!! (3, Funny)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 months ago | (#45996093)

that's what my grandpappy used to say, "if it looks like a jelly donut, walks like a jelly donut, and quacks like a jelly donut, it's probably a rover-flipped Mars rock."

Re:I know what this is!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45998157)

Since we became a police state

Re:I know what this is!!!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991667)

I bet it's a rock.

Not just a rock, and not just any rock, but a tiger-repellent rock! Do you see any tigers in the rover photos? No, of course not! And why is that you ask? Obviously it's because of the tiger-repellent rock.

Re:I know what this is!!!! (1)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about 3 months ago | (#45992207)

If I am understanding this correctly, the rock is very small --- the size of a jelly donut --- what is the fuss about?

This isn't like they discovered a Martian Mt. Rushmore. It is a little handsized rock. Ugh.

dumbest thing out of NASA in a while (0)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 3 months ago | (#45991157)

"we're seeing a side that hasn't seen the Martian atmosphere in billions of years"

You know that Martian soil - completely gas-tight. And you know Martian rocks - for billions of years, they stay completely motionless.

Gives new meaning to the phrase "rocket scientists"

Re:dumbest thing out of NASA in a while (4, Insightful)

clarkn0va (807617) | about 3 months ago | (#45991269)

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?

Re:dumbest thing out of NASA in a while (3, Funny)

cold fjord (826450) | about 3 months ago | (#45991499)

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?

It would only make sense to include that sort of functionality if it would be regularly used, which isn't likely. Given the tremendous constraints that they are under for space and weight it probably doesn't make sense. As to what is lucky, there is more than one description for that.

Old joke: Lost dog! Blind in one eye, missing right ear, tail missing, recently castrated. Answers to name of "Lucky!"

Re:dumbest thing out of NASA in a while (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45997299)

Wrong answer! Actually it was stupid not to include it.

Re:dumbest thing out of NASA in a while (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45993121)

NASA couldn't afford to license a patent for a Martian Rock Spatula.

Re:dumbest thing out of NASA in a while (4, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | about 3 months ago | (#45994327)

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?

Re:dumbest thing out of NASA in a while (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 3 months ago | (#46000087)

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.

I'm a fan of these robotic expeditions, but this really speaks to the rate of exploration that a human colony could support.

Re:dumbest thing out of NASA in a while (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 3 months ago | (#45996973)

It has a rock grinder which accomplishes the same task of getting at an unweathered surface. This is just a free lunch, not a new mission capability.

Re:dumbest thing out of NASA in a while (1)

rve (4436) | about 3 months ago | (#45991493)

"we're seeing a side that hasn't seen the Martian atmosphere in billions of years"

You know that Martian soil - completely gas-tight. And you know Martian rocks - for billions of years, they stay completely motionless.

Gives new meaning to the phrase "rocket scientists"

I don't know about gas tight, but without flowing water or ice, and without plate tectonics, the Martian surface doesn't move around much.

Re:dumbest thing out of NASA in a while (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | about 3 months ago | (#45992947)

They have wind storms to put our hurricanes to shame. A donut-sized rock surely moves.

Re:dumbest thing out of NASA in a while (4, Interesting)

Shadowmist (57488) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Horta (5, Informative)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 3 months ago | (#45991175)

It's a Horta of course. Doesn't anyone at the JPL watch Star Trek?

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Horta [memory-alpha.org]

Re:Horta (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991207)

Doesn't anyone at the JPL watch Star Trek?

Nope, even they get out more than you do.

Re:Horta (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991349)

and..your mom gets out more than you do. SPLANK!

Re:Horta (4, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 3 months ago | (#45991287)

It's a Horta of course. Doesn't anyone at the JPL watch Star Trek?

Well, kinda horta.

Re:Horta (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991655)

Well, kinda horta.

You can lead a horta culture, but you can't make her think.

Re:Horta (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 3 months ago | (#45991845)

Our pristine world has yet to fall victim to the scourge of silicon-based life. You will report to the nearest re-education station immediately or prepare to have your gas sacs forcibly removed for inciting unnecessary panic among the loyal citizenry.

Signed,
K'traal, assistant speaker for The Council.

That's not a rock... (1)

surfdaddy (930829) | about 3 months ago | (#45991191)

...it's a SPACESHIP! The aliens come from a microplanet.

Re:That's not a rock... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991285)

And the rest of the fleet was swallowed by a small dog.

Hollow Wheels (4, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | about 3 months ago | (#45991195)

This rock could have been clattering around in the rover's hollow wheels for a long time, and just recently fallen out.

Re:Hollow Wheels (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991221)

Thanks for spoiling the fun for the rest of us :(

Re:Hollow Wheels (1)

objectdisoriented (1973024) | about 3 months ago | (#45998377)

This rock could have been clattering around in the rover's hollow wheels for a long time, and just recently fallen out.

Seems a reasonable explanation.

Any idea why the small gravel-appearing rock is undisturbed in all directions around the donut rock?

I'd expect some gravel to be disturbed in the direction of donut travel.

ummm (1)

Aryden (1872756) | about 3 months ago | (#45991273)

Does no one else notice the almost perfectly rectangular rocks with perfectly straight lines between them as though it was a set stone path or is it just my imagination???

Re:ummm (4, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#45991329)

It's a common weathering pattern in certain kinds of rock. You find the same sorts of thing on earth and amateurs often think they've found ancient steps or something.

Re:ummm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991369)

Ah yes, the human mind's infinite ability to find patterns where none exist.

Re:ummm (1)

Paradise Pete (33184) | about 3 months ago | (#45991689)

Ah yes, the human mind's infinite ability to find patterns where none exist.

That doesn't actually happen, it just appears to because of our perception.

Re:ummm (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45992441)

...wow...

There clearly is a pattern in these situations. It's the explanation for the pattern that's the problem.

Re:ummm (3, Informative)

cusco (717999) | about 3 months ago | (#45992945)

The Unmanned Space Flight forums has a much better set of photos in this thread. [unmannedspaceflight.com] Apparently there are at least two rocks that have appeared, and some dirt. They may have rolled from higher up, this spot is on the uphill side of the rover.

Re:ummm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991359)

No, I think you opened Minecraft by mistake ...

Re:ummm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991365)

Quiet, if you keep talking about this, they'll realize I stole the rover and have it patrolling the barren wasteland of my back yard.

Drek, guess I need to put this thing back where I found it before the thugs get here.

Who else could it have been (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991343)

Marvin did it!

Obvious.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991345)

I'm not saying Aliens.... but...

Trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991347)

The air species that our inferior minds can't grasp the existence of let alone see is trolling us.

Martian dog poo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991353)

Looks like a dog poo to me.

It isn't an appearing rock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991437)

It is an appearing hole. The shadows were obscured by the angle and as it rolled on top of the holes, it became more visible. Check the first video. The dark areas are there... They are just really thin because of the angle.

Nice try though.

Another Fallen Astronaut (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991467)

Looks sort of like another Fallen Astronaut. Next thing we know, the Mars Rover will be postmarking some first day of issue stamped envelopes and then called home before the US Congress to testify.

I know what it is.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991469)

It's an NSA spy rock.

But don't worry, it's only collecting data on US rovers.

Mystery rock? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45991611)

That's what I would say too if I crashed while drunken roving...

Who installed the Burnout command? (3, Funny)

achbed (97139) | about 3 months ago | (#45991679)

That's what happens when you tell the rover to execute a burn out - sand and rocks fly everywhere!

Jelly doughnut? (1)

GPS Pilot (3683) | about 3 months ago | (#45991715)

OSCAR WILDE:
        Your Majesty, you're like a big jam doughnut with cream on the top.
THE PRINCE OF WALES:
        I beg your pardon?
OSCAR WILDE:
        Um ..... It was one of Whistler's.
JAMES McNEILL WHISTLER:
        I didn't say that.
OSCAR WILDE:
        You did, James, you did.
THE PRINCE OF WALES:
        Well, Mr. Whistler?
JAMES McNEILL WHISTLER:
        I- I meant, Your Majesty, that, uh, like a doughnut your arrival gives us pleasure and your departure merely makes us hungry for more.

So, did Martian bugs crawl out? (1)

excelsior_gr (969383) | about 3 months ago | (#45991887)

This may have been by accident, but using the rover to flip a rock can also be done on purpose: [blogspot.de]

"Randy Lindemann knows all kinds of crazy stuff the rover can do. He describes using the rover to flip over a rock. You drive it over the rock so that the rock is between the two back wheels on one side. Then you drive all of the wheels backward except for that middle wheel, and as the middle wheel drags backward, its cleats catch the underside of the rock and flip it. If little Martian bugs crawl out, you win unlimited funding. "

Jelly Doughnut? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45992187)

Having performed my own photo-analysis, I would have to say that the purported rock was more akin to a cruller. Certainly, it is not like a jelly doughnut.

mystery ? (1)

tleaf100 (2020038) | about 3 months ago | (#45992483)

rock hopper. a piece of stone thrown up from its spot by frost/freezing and literaly cracked out and thrown away by contraction of surrounding rock. they occur all the time on earth and will therefore occur else where.

Alright (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45992507)

Which one of you guys put a rock 3D printer in front of the rover? Elon? Was that you?

upside down? and any tracks? (1)

karstdiver (541054) | about 3 months ago | (#45993085)

How can you tell it is upside down? Are there any other displaced rocks or pebbles or other marks that show its path? (What is different between these two panels?) Just wondering...

Re:upside down? and any tracks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45993527)

On the side there is an arrow, and the text "This side up".

Re:upside down? and any tracks? (1)

cusco (717999) | about 3 months ago | (#45996057)

Higher up the thread is a link to the Unmanned Space Flight forums, where there are some much better images. There are at least two rocks and some sand that have moved from one image to the next. Apparently this is on the uphill side of the rover, and the rocks may have rolled down from above.

Unit confusion (4, Funny)

Dzimas (547818) | about 3 months ago | (#45993231)

I know that the US has long resisted a shift to SI measurements, but since when does JPL measure things in jelly donuts?

Re:Unit confusion (2)

hey! (33014) | about 3 months ago | (#45995651)

The metric system was introduced to Europe by Napoleon, so the standard unit of rock volume should be the "brioche".

I believe i may have the answer. . . . (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 3 months ago | (#45993713)

. . . it is the Pet Rock, I mean the very first ever Pet Rock sold, who stated publicly that it (?) was fed up with all the commercialism on the planet Earth and was going to take a trip to Mars......

I admit I considered the Pet Rock a bit farfetched at the time (I mean its (?) extremely sophisticated vocabulary and lexicon, as it (?) had only been in existence a short while back then?

We got there second (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45993959)

Elon Musk put that rock there, as a prank.

Poprocks on mars (1)

An dochasac (591582) | about 3 months ago | (#45997191)

This may be another example of where our geocentric understaning of landscape geology misleads us. Perchlorate-rich soil under carbon-dioxide rich low atmospheric pressure, thermal tides, carbon dioxide ice... What would happen if a bit of CO2 froze inside a rock or in a pocket beneath a stone and eventually got up to its sublimation temperature? Sometimes it would vaporize with enough force to pop the rock somewhere else. What if the perchlorate-water reaction that caused so much excitement with the Viking landers happened naturally due to condensed water vapor? Might that sometimes cause internal pressures within rocks and cause them to fragment?

In 50 years, gazing at the stars from space-hub SR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45997659)

"Oh, yes, I remember the years we spent rock-flipping on Mars... Haahahaha"

Martian children (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46000179)

ignoring the warnings of their elders to remain unseen and stay away from the alien robot, martian children decided to have some fun. they threw the rock in front of the rover to see if it could successfully traverse the obstacle. next, they'll put a ramp and 12 school buses in front of the rover to see if it can make the jump.

BTJ weighs in (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about 3 months ago | (#46014437)

You spin your wheels and throw rocks in my county, sonny, and you'll get a Careless and Reckless ticket! -- Buford T. Justice

jelly donut? (1)

egibster (1913920) | about 3 months ago | (#46015385)

why is everyone calling it a jelly donut? It has a hole like a regular donut. It must be the same mind control stopping us from realizing that aliens did this...
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