America's favorite $2.5 billion interplanetary science project stopped in its tracks recently when it discovered a strange, bright, shiny object nestled in the Martian soil. That science project, of course, is the Mars Curiosity rover which is now a few days into its survey of Martian soil.
The plan was pretty simple: Plunge Curiosity's 1.8-inch wide on-board scooper into the "sand and powdery material," analyze it, find evidence of life on Mars, tweet about it, come home. We're sort of simplifying the rover's mission here, but you get the drift. It was all going swimmingly earlier this week, when something unexpected happened on the rover's very first scoop. A shiny thing appeared.
Having spotted an unexpected foreign object, the Curiosity Rover stopped in its tracks, cancelled all processes and turned to mission control for help. That was on Sunday night. What happened next happened at a characteristically glacial pace for NASA's big mission. No, seriously. America's brightest scientists labored over the little fleck of metal for days. and seems to have enlisted each and every one of the Curiosity's sophisticated scientific instrument, including the whimsically named "ChemCam." Have a look to the right.