While images sent back from NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover have proven to be delightful fodder for the endless numbers of armchair detectives with YouTube channels looking for evidence of aliens on the Red Planet, NASA itself occasionally does point out curious structures or odd objects its rover comes across. This week NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory wasted no time in adding some mystery to the new year, announcing the discovery of some strange “stick-like figures” the Curiosity Rover came across this week.
After collecting images and data about the odd formations, the Curiosity Rover immediately took to Twitter to give an update about its activity and post a picture of the strange objects. NASA scientists aren’t quite speculating yet what the objects might be, but their tweet suggests they are geological in nature:
Meanwhile, back on Mars... I’m checking out these stick-like figures. Each is about a quarter-inch long. Maybe they're crystals? Or they could be minerals that filled spaces where crystals dissolved away. Stay tuned! Science continues.
Of course, they could be something else entirely that we haven’t yet encountered on Mars. Fossilized Mars bug larvae? Martian coprolite? Doubtful. It’s probably just some dumb rock, one more dumb rock in a long line of dumb rocks found on the dumb Red Planet, itself a big dumb rock. For those of us who have spent most of our lives eagerly awaiting first contact, these little curiosities only add to the bitter realization that the discovery of alien life is likely still a few generations away. For their part, though, NASA is still hopefully that life may be soon found on Mars. NASA and the European Space Agency are sending two more missions to the Martian surface over the next two years designed to look for evidence of long-dead microscopic organisms. More and more evidence of microbial life thriving in harsh environments has been found, leading many astronomers and scientists to speculate that any alien life we discover on our own might be microscopic.
That’s why I still think these “weird Mars rock” stories should be taken seriously (at least the ones released by space agencies themselves. Sorry, YouTubers). There have already been claims that the Viking landers of the 1970s might have discovered evidence of life on Mars without even realizing it. Who knows what any of these weird-looking dumb rocks might turn out to be after years of analysis or examination by more advanced rovers? Hopefully not Martian coprolites. What a bittersweet, cruelly symbolic discovery that would be.