London: Scientists believe the strange blotch on pictures NASA’s Curiosity rover sent back from Mars could have been debris from rover landing.
The faint but distinctive dot which can be seen on the horizon of the Red Planet was taken by a device on the 2.5- billion-dollar robot called its Hazcam and relayed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter back to Earth.
However, two hours later when the satellite made another pass over Curiosity, the rover sent another batch of images that revealed that the blotch had eerily disappeared.
Instantly, the Internet was flooded with theories as to why the two photographs would be different, especially as the rover, which is the largest spacecraft ever sent to another planet, landed on its own with no direct control from NASA mission control.
The most prominent reason discussed online for the mysterious blot is that Curiosity managed to photograph over the course of 200 milliseconds the crash-landing of the spacecraft that carried the rover to the Martian surface.
But one engineer working on the project told the LA Times that ‘would be an insane coincidence’ and that the shape on the horizon was most likely dirt on the lens.
However, Mission controllers now believe it may indeed be the reason.
“I don’t think that you can rule it out. It bears looking into,” a newspaper quoted Curiosity mission manager Michael Watkins as saying.
JPL engineers surveyed the debris from Curiosity’s landing in a photograph entitled the ‘crime scene’ photograph.
Poking its head out for the first time since settling in Gale Crater on Wednesday, the car-sized rover peered around and returned a black-and-white self-portrait as well as panorama that reveals a hazy, mountainous horizon - strikingly similar to California’s Mojave Desert.
First Published: Sunday, August 12, 2012, 15:47