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NASA explains strange stringy object photographed by Perseverance rover

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The tangled string-like object was photographed on Mars by the Perseverance rover's Hazard Avoidance Camera A on July 12. Photo courtesy NASA
The tangled string-like object was photographed on Mars by the Perseverance rover's Hazard Avoidance Camera A on July 12. Photo courtesy NASA

Aug. 12 (UPI) -- One photo taken recently by NASA's Perseverance rover on Mars showed an unusual noodle-like object lying on the surface of the Red Planet, but scientists have an explanation.

The photo was taken on July 12 and depicted what looked like a tangled web of string in the lower right corner. The image led some to question what the object is, particularly when a photo taken four days later revealed that it had disappeared.

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Last week, scientists at NASA cleared the air about what's in the photo.

They said the object was a bundle of string that came off the spacecraft when it landed in February 2021. When the rover made its Martian landing using a sky-crane, some hardware was discarded.

The mission's Ingenuity helicopter also sent other detailed photos that show some of the other discarded items, including a parachute.

When the rover captured the same area three days later on July 15, the stringy material was gone. Photo courtesy NASA

As for the stringy object in the photo, NASA said it's Dacron netting that was part of the rover's descent stage when it landed on Mars more than a year ago.

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Officials said that some debris was found more than a mile away from the landing zone, in an area called Hogwallow Flats. That's where the stringy material was photographed by Perseverance.

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"So far, we've seen shiny pieces of thermal blanket material, Dacron netting material that is also used in thermal blankets, and a stringlike material that we conclude to be a likely piece of shredded Dacron netting," NASA scientist Justin Maki wrote in the blog post.

The space agency noted that the debris was likely blown across the Martian surface by wind over the course of several days or weeks to the Hogwallow Flats area.

"It is possible that the energy from the sky-crane crash may have first ejected the material into the air before it settled down in the Hogwallow Flats region," Maki wrote.

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"And some of the smaller pieces may have been expelled from the crash ballistically. But it appears that the material was simply blown by the wind over the course of several days or weeks."

NASA said that it will monitor potential sources of contamination from debris to ensure the integrity of samples collected during space missions.

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