Human trash has been discovered on Mars, but NASA’s explanation leaves unanswered questions

A piece of human trash has been found on Mars, and as embarrassing as it sounds, at least not a cigarette butt.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover announced the “surprising” discovery on Wednesday, June 15, as it shared images showing what appears to be a square of aluminum foil stuck between rocks.

Scientists think they know what it is, but they are still debating how it got there.

“My team discovered something unexpected. It’s a piece of the thermal blanket they think came from my descent stage, the rocket-powered jet bag that landed me last year.” NASA wrote on Facebook.

“It’s a surprise to find this here because my descent stage crashed about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away. Did this piece land here then, or was it blown away by the wind?”

If NASA was anticipating theories, it sure got the wrong audience.

Most commenters on social media are horrified that humans are polluting a planet we’ve never visited before. Some have criticized the agency for being careless, while some scammers have claimed to have seen unsolicited NASA images in other images of Mars, including 7-Eleven’s Big Gulp glass.

NASA’s Mars Perseverance Probe, please arrange your things. “Hope you pick up your mess,” Christopher Hughes wrote on the agency’s Facebook page.

Michela Gusmini published “How to pollute without being physically somewhere: that’s another level.”

“I think it won’t be long before we start seeing soda bottles and discarded fast food containers and plastic trash on Mars. We might have to send a robot with a broom to really start tidying up,” Michael Harris said.

Some commentators have come out in defense of NASA, noting that collecting garbage on Mars could cost millions of dollars.

“Just because humans don’t like food scraps and debris doesn’t mean Mars hate them either. We know nothing about them. For all we know, they can eat pollution,” David Savage wrote on Facebook.

It’s not clear if NASA is aware of a piece of the thermal blanket falling off during the descent. The reflective material was created by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and wraps around the spacecraft to regulate temperature, the agency says.

The Persevere rover touched down on Mars in February 2021 “to search for signs of ancient life and collect samples of … fractured rock and soil … for possible return to Earth.”

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