NASA Mars Perseverance Rover Has a Rock Hitchhiking in One of Its Wheels – CNET

NASA Mars Perseverance Rover Has a Rock Hitchhiking in One of Its Wheels – CNET

This Perseverance rover image from Feb. 25 shows the rock the wheel. It was voted as “Image of the Week” for Week 54. 

NASA/JPL-Caltech

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

If you’ve ever gotten a pebble stuck in your shoe, you’ll have sympathy for NASA’s Perseverance rover. The rolling Mars explorer picked up a rock in one of its wheels, and it has stuck around for some time. The rock isn’t a boulder, but it’s not a tiny pebble, either.

Space fans have noticed the rock. The public voted a shot from Feb. 25 as Perseverance’s “Image of the Week” for last week. The most recent view of the hitchhiker is from March 2. 

NASA posts the rover’s raw images on a rolling basis. In looking back through the archives, I found the rock appeared in the vehicle’s hazard avoidance camera images at least as far back as Feb. 6, though I didn’t do an exhaustive historical survey.

Since Perseverance seems to have adopted a pet rock, I reached out to NASA to see if anyone has given it a nickname yet. If not, I would suggest “Rocco” would be a good one.

Perseverance’s six wheels are made from aluminum, with cleats that give it traction on the rough, rocky and dusty terrain in the Jezero Crater. Each wheel is 20.7 inches (52.5 centimeters) in diameter. NASA’s newest rover sports an updated designed compared with the wheels on the older Curiosity rover that have taken a beating but are still functioning after many years on the red planet.

The rock isn’t slowing Perseverance’s roll. The rover has been trucking across Mars, setting new driving records along the way. If anything, it’s a testament to the rover’s robust wheel design. If I had a rock that size in my shoe, I wouldn’t be going anywhere.

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