Mars rock makes 'surprised' face as NASA rover snags a sample

It's the Mr. Bill of Martian rocks.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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This Mars rock nicknamed "Issole" looks like it's wearing a surprise face, but that actually comes from NASA's Perseverance rover drilling for rock samples.


I love a good goofy Mars image, and NASA has delivered yet again with a look at a rock nicknamed "Issole" that appears to have two wide eyes and an open "O"-shaped mouth. Surprise! This face-like piece on another planet is the work of the Perseverance rover.

Issole has a number of drill and abrasion marks because it's an intriguing and ancient rock. NASA has been eager to gather samples from it that can be brought back to Earth via a future mission. Perseverance, however, ran into a hiccup when pebbles from a previous drill attempt clogged its sample-collection system in late December. The rover team worked out how to clear out the pebbles, freeing Perseverance up to grab a fresh bit of rock.

Perseverance ended up dumping the remains of the sample that gummed up the works.

"This rock almost looked surprised that I was coming back! Thankfully, I was able to collect another sample here to replace the one I discarded earlier," the rover team tweeted Monday. "This may be one of the oldest rocks I sample, so it could help us understand the history of this place."

The latest addition to the rover's rock collection is a testament to the ingenuity of the rover team, which had been methodically working through the pebble problem since it started near the end of December. 

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NASA also shared images of the rock core sitting in the sample tube and a look at how Issole appears after the latest drill work. Perseverance has left multiple distinctive marks on the rock and now it looks more like the three-eyed Little Green Men alien characters from the claw machine scene in Toy Story.

Perseverance is looking for evidence of ancient microbial life in the Jezero Crater, a former lakebed with an intriguing history of water. With activities at Issole complete, the rover will be looking out for other rocks to sample as it continues its exploration across the dry, dusty land.