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NASA Mars rover eyes walrus-shaped boulder: 'Interesting stuff'

The Perseverance rover zoomed in for a closer view of the possibly volcanic rock.

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NASA's Perseverance rover snapped this view of a Mars boulder on June 11, 2021. It resembles a walrus, a seal or even a banana slug.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU
This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

NASA's Perseverance rover has already sent back thousands of images from its new home in the Jezero Crater on Mars. Occasionally, NASA chooses a cool view to highlight, as it did on Tuesday with a look at a boulder the rover spotted in the distance.

"Passed this boulder and took a closer look. Some of my team see similarities to volcanic rocks on Earth," the Perseverance team tweeted. The large, undulating rock bears a passing resemblance to a walrus, which puts it in good company with recent looks at a "butt crack rock" and a rock shaped like a brachiosaurus.

The wider view of the boulder comes from one of the rover's mast-mounted cameras on June 11, but the rover also used its SuperCam Remote Micro-Imager to zoom in on the boulder's details. The SuperCam is mounted on the rover's "head" and is designed to reveal the geologic secrets of Mars from a distance.

The combination of images is a good illustration of the rover's ability to investigate the landscape and fascinating rock formations from afar. The boulder measures about 7 feet (2 meters) wide.

As eye-catching as the boulder is, it's not the rover's main focus. "Interesting stuff, but I'm on to more sedimentary types, where rock layers could better preserve any potential signs of ancient life," the rover team said. Perseverance wants to ferret out any evidence of microbes from the red planet's past.

The rover recently embarked on its first official science campaign on Mars after providing support services for the Ingenuity helicopter. Perseverance will be looking for rocks and soil to pack into sample containers and will take a road trip across the crater floor. If all goes well, we'll have plenty more beautiful boulders ahead.

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