Rove Your Boat
While going about its usual planet-roaming-and-photographing duties, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover spotted something delightful — a rock that seems to form the delta-shaped Starfleet logo from "Star Trek."
As Space.com reports, the familiar symbol was posted as part of a cache of raw Curiosity images taken on January 9, and as CalTech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory noted in the image's data description, it was taken with the rover's left navigation camera.
The next day, amateur Mars-watcher and self-described "astropoet" Stuart Atkinson pointed out the blink-and-you'll-miss-it happenstance in a tweet, joking that the Curiosity team may well have "smiled like Cheshire Cats" when noticing the curiously-shaped rock photographed on the Red Planet's surface.
As NASA explained on Curiosity's blog, the images were taken while the rover was executing "contact science on a flat block of dark-toned bedrock in its workspace," which is clearly visible even in the black-and-white images as the lighter rock formations stick up from the Martian sand.
Last summer, NASA's Perseverance Rover, which was sent out in 2020 as a sort of follow-up companion to Curiosity with a more explicit mission of looking for signs of life, spotted a bizarre donut-shaped rock whose hole-y appearance scientists struggled to explain.
So divided were experts on the rock that nobody could even agree if it came from the planet itself or had fallen from space.
"I can’t say with absolute, 100 percent certainty it’s not a meteorite, but I think it’s highly unlikely," Arizona State University space researcher Jim Rice told CNN last July. "The reason I say that is because, this region we’re in, we see a lot of rocks that have these kind of hollowed-out interiors."
By comparison, the "Starfleet"-esque rock spotted more recently by Curiosity is downright normal — though that doesn't make it any less lovely.