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NASA Mars Rover Spots Spaghetti-Like Object

Forbidden pasta.

A tangled, string-like object sits on the sandy brown Martian ground with a rock nearby.
This tangled mess of something is likely debris left over from Perseverance's arrival on Mars.

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

I just checked, and there are no Italian restaurants on Mars. So there goes one explanation for an odd object photographed by NASA's Perseverance rover on Tuesday. It isn't spaghetti. Nor is it a sea creature or a hair ball. It looks like a tangle of string or shredded material that's clinging together.

This image from July 12, 2022, puts the spaghetti-shaped object (circled in red) in perspective with the rover's wheel and the end of its robotic arm. It looks like a good-size forkful.

NASA/JPL-Caltech; red circle by Amanda Kooser/CNET

The image comes from one of the rover's front-facing hazard avoidance cameras that keep an eye on the landscape to protect Percy when it's driving or using its robotic arm.

The most likely explanation for the tangle of material is debris from the mission. Perseverance has caught sight of its landing equipment leftovers from near and far. Notably, back in June the rover spotted a small piece of a thermal blanket wedged against a rock.

The rover's arrival on Mars in February 2021 was quite a dramatic event. The descent stage safely delivered the wheeled laboratory to the surface and then skedaddled away to crash at a distance. Percy caught sight of the crash, and you can see how bits and bobs of gear might've gotten spread across a wide area of the landscape.

A broader view of the messy object shows it in relation to one of the rover's wheels and the end of the robotic arm. The rock the rover is investigating is an important sample collection site. Perseverance is in the Jezero Crater exploring a former river delta, a place that's a prime spot to look for signs of ancient microbial life.

I've dropped a line to NASA to see if we can get a more definitive ID on the pasta-esque object.