Earthlings have officially littered on another planet, and it’s spreading in unexpected ways. Per the Guardian, the Mars rover Perseverance captured an image of a shiny, foil-like object stuck between two rocks. It's certainly a sign of life, but not the type Perseverance is hoping to find on its mission. On its Twitter account—narrated in the first person—Perseverance said "it’s a piece of a thermal blanket that … may have come from my descent stage, the rocket-powered jet pack that set me down on landing day back in 2021." The blanket either fluttered to its current location during the landing or it was subsequently blown there by Martian winds. According to the New York Times, the blanket scrap is far from the only "otherworldly wreckage" on the planet’s surface. Earlier this year, the helicopter Ingenuity, Perseverance’s "small robotic companion," spotted the top of the landing craft, or backshell, which protected the rest of the craft on its descent. It's lying shattered about a mile from where Perseverance touched down with help from Skycrane.
The Guardian says the discovery has "reignited concerns that space exploration risks contaminating the pristine Martian and lunar environments," a problem addressed by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which some say does not go far enough to protect space environments. However, according to one expert, the risk of contamination is low because "everything is sterilized before it goes to Mars." Per Mashable, the rover "doesn’t have much time to admire trash” as it now headed into the “prime of its mission," exploring a long-dried river delta in the Jezero Crater, which may have been a watery environment capable of supporting microbial life about 3 billion years ago. (Read more Perseverance stories.)