NASA's Perseverance rover captured images of its own litter, and it shows how Mars is becoming a junkyard

The Perseverance rover has been searching the dusty and rocky landscape of Mars' Jezero Crater for signs of life since it landed last year.

But now, the rover has spotted human garbage - a piece of a thermal blanket used during its landing - on the surface of the red planet.

Space junk is a growing concern, in part because it contaminates otherwise pristine planetary bodies.

"It's a surprise finding this here" since the robot's descent happened about 2 km — just over a mile away, the team wrote. "Did this piece land here after that, or was it blown here by the wind?"

This isn't the rover's only piece of litter on Mars. In April, the Ingenuity helicopter captured a bird's-eye view of human-made space junk — the landing gear that helped it, and the Perseverance rover, get to Mars.

Space junk is a growing concern for space agencies. Fragments of missions left behind in space — like the boots, shovels, and entire vehicles the Apollo missions left on the Moon — can contaminate otherwise pristine planetary bodies.

Restrictions protecting space from pollution are scant. Current space law has not changed much since the Outer Space Treaty, which was hammered out in 1967 and isn't too detailed.


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