Image courtesy of: Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA’s Perseverance rover has made a special friend on its journey across the surface of Mars, a lone rock which has nestled itself in the rover’s front left wheel. Scientists noticed the rock in images back in February and have humorously enjoyed its presence coming to consider the rock a pet of sorts.
In its time on Perseverance, the rock has traveled nearly 5.5 miles across the surface starting from the Jezero Crater all the way to a delta called “Kodiak” in the west. The rock continues to stay nestled on the rover and has not interfered in any of the rover’s daily functions.
Oddly enough, this isn’t the first pet rock that has been adopted on Mars. NASA’s Spirit rover which operated from 2004 to 2010 also had its own rock which was nestled in a wheel at one point. Unlike our current pet rock, the Spirit rock ended up lodged in critical components of the wheel, stalling its progress forward. Scientists had to then remove the rock. In the end of its run, Spirit ultimately powered down during a very cold Martian winter. Shoutout to Spirit rover!
When asked about Perseverance’s pet rock, NASA-JPL spokesperson Andrew Good said "We've seen these kinds of rocks get 'caught' in Curiosity's wheels from time to time, too. They occur during cross-slope drives, and tend to fall out entirely on their own after a while (there's no particular way to get this rock out of our 'shoe')."
We hope the little guy sticks with Perseverance for years to come. We shall call him Rocko, in honor of Sesame Street’s Zoe, who carries with ther a pet rock of the same name.