Curiosity had just taken its first scoop of Martian soil for analysis when an operator here on earth noticed a mysterious metallic object on the ground beneath the rover. WHAT COULD IT BE?! Is it a little robotic beetle? A new element? Something much, MUCH less exciting?
The image--taken by the right Mast Camera during the mission's 61st Martian day--shows Curiosity's robotic arm's scoop full of sand and dust, waiting to be deposited inside its analysis unit. But, after looking closer at the photo, someone noticed that unusual bright piece.
The scooping operation was then halted and the rover was instructed to take a closer look of the object, which hasn't arrived yet to ground control.
SPOILER: It's a screw. If it looks like a screw, it's probably a screw. I give it a day before a wheel falls off. Then the Martians are gonna think we're just a bunch of rednecks who've only come to their planet to park our broken-ass cars in their yards. We're not all like that, I swear! (Please don't vaporize earth)
Thanks to Douglass, sherm and Chris, who agree it's never a good sign to find pieces of your vehicle not attached to your vehicle.