NASA’s latest Mars rover Perseverance has spotted a strange porous rock on the surface of the Red Planet while preparing to drop the Ingenuity helicopter out of its belly holdings.
The exact make up and history of the rock are unknown, although the Perseverance team have proposed a range of hypothesis including the suggestion it could be a meteorite, rather than a native Mars rock.
The rock is about 15cm long and could be a piece of local bedrock exposed to the harsh surface, or may even be a piece of rock from elsewhere on the planet, pushed across by an earlier impact.
Other users responded to the Tweet by NASA’s Perseverance team to highlight tiny spots that can be seen littering the surface of the small rock.
NASA explained that this was the result of lasers fired from the rover that are designed to tell planetary scientists more about geological objects, that may not otherwise be available without picking it up.
The rock was found inside the Jezero crater, not far from the location of the first Mars helipad, that will act as the launch site for the Ingenuity helicopter.
One user shared a photo of a river rock they had in their collection that bared a striking resemblance to the Mars rock, suggesting it may have been formed by a long gone river.
The user, Richard Spagnolli, said the rock was glazed and rather heavy in size. It was covered in pock marks and showing visible signs of weathering and water changes.
Erin Gibbons, a member of the Perseverance team, explained that the tiny holes on the rock were created by the intense laser fired by the Perseverance rover.
They were ‘tiny craters’ caused by explosions from the SuperCam laser, she added ‘I helped target the laser on this rock. Somebody pinch me’.