Spaghetti? String cheese? Landing debris? The last one, probably, but whatever it is, NASA’s Perseverance rover has spotted it on the surface of Mars, and the internet wants answers.
The photo of the stringy object (seen below), nestled in the sand between some unassuming Martian rocks, was taken by Perseverance on July 12, 2022, the 495th day of the rover’s ongoing mission to study the red planet.
The photo can be seen below, in addition to another image taken from a different vantage point that helps convey the scale of the object as it sits directly beneath Perseverance, close to its wheels.
It’s unclear what the object is. Close inspection shows it has the appearance of a bundle of string, which gives rise to the question of how it got there.
In any case, it wasn’t long before the image captured public attention. Within just a couple of days of the object being posted online, social media users were demanding to know more. Most, of course, were cracking jokes, with many of them likening the object to a bundle of spaghetti. One could also say it looks like string cheese.
“I knew the Martians were Italian!” one user wrote.
“Knees weak, palms are sweaty, there’s dust on my solar panels already, Mars spaghetti,” wrote another, echoing the well-memed Eminem verse.
Meanwhile, the image of the object rose to become Perseverance’s Image of the Week, which is decided via a weekly public vote.
News outlet CNET reported that the most likely explanation is that the object is a bit of debris released by Perseverance itself, possibly during its parachute-assisted landing maneuver back in February 2021.
It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened.
Back in April this year, Perseverance located the parachute it used to land on Mars. Then in June, the rover also discovered a shiny piece of foil used as Perseverance’s thermal blanket during its descent.
“It’s a surprise finding this here,” the rover’s official Twitter account wrote at the time. “My descent stage crashed about 2 km (1.2 miles) away. Did this piece land here after that, or was it blown here by the wind?”
Whatever the newly-found spaghetti-like object is, what’s currently lacking is an official explanation from NASA. Newsweek has contacted the space agency for comment.
Mysterious Martian images taken by Perseverance or his older robotic colleague Curiosity are often quick to garner public interest.
Earlier this year, there was much speculation about what appeared to be a doorway in a Martian rock and another image that seemed to show a humanoid shape lying down. On the latter, NASA scientist Mitch Schulte told Newsweek at the time that Mars is thought to be utterly inhospitable to life as we know it currently.