Depending on where you live, dropping litter out of your car window is a very unsavory habit - at worst, it's a crime. But when you're in the business of dominating another planet, litter-dropping is the inevitable downside of doing awesome stuff in space.
Enter Curiosity: The one ton, nuclear-powered, laser-armed, six-wheeled rover. And now, unashamed interplanetary litterbug.
While we were being distracted by the Red Bull Stratos skydive attempt yesterday (that ended up being aborted), Curiosity was busy playing with a scoopful of Mars dirt. Although this particular sample won't be analyzed for science, it is being used to "clean" any terrestrial contaminants from the robotic arm-mounted scoop.
A part of the cleaning process can be watched in the video below - the scooped regolith can be seen being shaken so the fine grains scrub the scoop's metallic surface.
But wait, what's that shiny thing on the ground? Mission managers called a halt to the scoop shaking to investigate.
Sure, the Mars surface contains lots of strange shapes - some of which may look more ‘alien' than usual - but this little shape isn't a rock and it certainly isn't a clump of dust. If you use your imagination, when looking through the view of Curiosity's mast-mounted ChemCam instrument (below), it almost looks like a snake's discarded skin after shedding... or perhaps some kind of plant?