Rover Plastic

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PostPosted: August 20, 2013 1:03 PM 

I created this topic to document my continuing examination of the Plastic (officially Schmutz_001) that was initially observed after the first scoop at Rocknest on Sol 61.

I do not believe it is Plastic. I believe it either came from the scoop and was dropped when it vibrated or it formed in situ.

Before they even knew what is was, the said:

"The rover team's assessment is that the bright object is something from the rover, not Martian material. It appears to be a shred of plastic material, likely benign, but it has not been definitively identified."

Take note of the language: "something," "appears to be," and, "likely."

Here's a translation to English:

"We took a look at it and we have no idea what it is, other than it is a bright object. It is definitely something, though. Although we don't know what it is, our best guess is that it is plastic because it kinda looks like plastic. We used to think it was a screw because it was little and silver like a screw. We can confidently and directly state for a fact with absolutely no qualifiers like "possible," "likely," or "appears to be," that it's NOT FROM MARS. We sure hope that its not something that will hurt the taxpayers' billion dollar machine and source of our jobs."

Here's the official explanation as to how it ended up there:

"Over the past two sols ... the team has assessed the object as likely to be some type of plastic wrapper material, such as a tube used around a wire, possibly having fallen onto the rover from ... descent stage during the landing."

Take note of the language: "likely to be," "such as," and, "possibly having."

What a most incredible journey for this half-an-inch-probably-weighs-as-much-as-a-feather piece of plastic. Either that epic journey happened or it simply came from the hole they dug the day they found it (or it was sitting there and they didn't see it on Sol 55).

When they first saw it on a Sol 61 Mastcam image, they thought it was a "possible screw." This was obviously proven to be incorrect when they got the Sol 62 ChemCam images. Then, they said it was a piece of plastic. It is clear that their examination was superficial as it was comprised solely of visual observation.

I processed this image in order to bring out the detail of the black "dust" around it:

I observe that the Plastic is quite tiny. According to NASA/JPL, it is "about half an inch long." It just so happens, just about everything else in the picture is equally as small:

Further, the rocks and dust surrounding the Plastic appear to share some of the same characteristics:

I also believe that the same features visible around the Plastic were observed on Sol 159 at Wernecke:

Interestingly, they decided not to zap it with the laser before they even knew what it was.

But they zapped the similar area at Wernecke:

They can be wrong. They were clearly wrong about the "possible screw." If they're wrong about it being plastic, too, then we're out of terrestrial things it could be, so we're left it is from Mars. What could it be then? Perhaps a "feature that may represent the effects of biological processes" (quote taken directly from the third of Curiosity's eight main scientific objectives)?


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Reply: 1

PostPosted: August 20, 2013 1:59 PM 

Also, if they are looking for "features that may represent the effects of biological processes," it goes without saying that if they find these features, they're going to categorize them and study them.

Accordingly, it makes the most logical sense that this would be done primarily using the ChemCam from afar and the MAHLI up close. If this is the case, we should be able to spot familiar patterns in these images.

Further supporting the in situ formation/it's-not-plastic theory:

I believe that the white stuff we've seen around could also play a part in the in situ formation theory (note the similar morphology):



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PostPosted: August 20, 2013 2:27 PM 

Here is another version of the above comparison:


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PostPosted: August 20, 2013 2:39 PM 


"The resulting Mastcam and RMI images show that is not a screw, as initially feared, but it's not clear yet what it is. While it is being studied further, a Mastcam mosaic was planned for Sol 63 instead of continuing arm activities."

From the PDS:


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PostPosted: August 20, 2013 5:07 PM 

The comparison target I described above is actually Ekwir_1:



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Reply: 5

PostPosted: August 20, 2013 5:46 PM 

I made a post somewhere about the observed winddirection and the possibility that this piece of plastic could be found at the place where it was observed. I will look it up. Conclusion was that is highly unlikely that the wind brought the piece of plastic to the place where they found it


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Reply: 6

PostPosted: August 20, 2013 7:07 PM 

Exactly, Z.

Rip off the smallest a piece of tape you can off the tape dispenser and fold the adhesive side together. That's going to be the same size and weight as the plastic.

Now go stick it atop the grass on your yard. It won't stay there for a month.

But this plastic did stay exactly in place at Rocknest from Sol 61 up into the Sol 90s.

And they label the area as a "WINDBLOWN sand shadow."


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Reply: 7

PostPosted: August 21, 2013 3:15 AM 

Earlier post from 2012, October 16:

I would like to ask you guys here if the "shiny plastic" object found by Curiosity could be blown there from the debris of the ckycrane.

Assuming that the picture of Curiosity, the backshell,the skycrane and parachute as can be seen here (see this link [url] [link] [/url]) has North up and South down.

Unfortunately there is no Wind Direction data here in the weather report for the first 19 sols. But it does suggest " The pattern of pressure change across the sol is [b]very similar from Sol to Sol.[/b] "

I know that the wind sensor is damaged, but they state: "The wind sensor on the forward-facing mini-boom is unaffected. With just the one sensor, it makes it difficult to fully understand wind behaviour.

It degrades our ability to detect wind speed and direction when the wind is blowing from a particular direction, but we think we can work around that," said Curiosity's deputy project scientist, Ashwin Vasavada.

The example (?) weather report states: "Blowing from the East at 2m/s".

It is hard to imagine that the plastic object was blown from the path the skycrane took (from curiosity landing,to skycrane impact) to the location the plastic object was found, when the wind direction was from the East.

What I'm I doing wrong here?


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Reply: 8

PostPosted: August 21, 2013 7:40 AM 

Wildcat and Zoost;

I've always considered that the "plastic" might be a manifestation of current Marian life from purely a morphological standpoint that suggests that the various bilaterally symmetrical bumps and other features of "the plastic" militate against the official hypothesis of its provenance being true.

Therefore, Congrats on your assembling the circumstantial evidence that suggests that the "plastic" might be homegrown Martian rather than being a modified CURI hitchhiker from Earth as NASA would have us believe.

Hope that the topic will uncover further evidence in that regard.



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Reply: 9

PostPosted: August 21, 2013 11:34 AM 


Sol 61:

Sol 69:

Sol 74:

Sol 84:

Annotated version of Sol 84 (due to the different angle):

Sol 85:

Annotated Sol 85:

Sol 93:

Annotated Sol 93:


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Reply: 10

PostPosted: August 21, 2013 11:43 AM 

I also observe that the location of the Plastic is directly below the scoop (which vibrated materials).

After the first scoop, the team observed: "Vib particles that dropped appeared to have fallen straight down"


It was first observed AFTER the vibration of the first scoop on Sol 61. So it seems plausible that its origin was in the scoop hole.

I looked in the scoop hole for similar materials and observed this:


Further, on Sol 63, they reviewed the Sol 55 Rocknest photos and concluded "Sol-55 Mcam image repry'd and downlinked on Sol-63 of FOD location shows FOD not present"


I reviewed the same picture and, due to the notable lighting difference, different angle, and wider field of view, could not make a conclusive observation.


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Reply: 11

PostPosted: August 21, 2013 12:12 PM 


On the morning of October 9th (Sol 62), less than a day removed from the inaccurate screw/hardware assumption and a little over a day since the first observation, NASA issued a press release and tweet regarding the Plastic:

"The rover team's assessment is that the bright object is something from the rover, not Martian material. It appears to be a shred of plastic material, likely benign, but it has not been definitively identified."


"[t]eam continues to assess a small object on ground, likely a shred of benign plastic"


BUT . . .
While planning for Sol 63, presumably on the night of October 9th, the team discussed two options for Sol 63 in light of the "anomalous material in front of the rover." One of these options was for the team "to assume the anomalous object was benign" and proceed as previously planned. They rejected this option due to the "uncertainty surrounding the anomalous object."


To me, it seems like they just wanted to get something out there to explain a picture they knew would catch the public's attention (similar to the Mars Bunny on MER and the screw with Phoenix). This lends credence to the proposition that they had no idea what the Plastic was.

It should also be noted that they did a detailed investigation on the MER Bunny where they painstakingly reviewed all images and actually tracked the bunny through photos back to the landing site. They even performed a spectroscopic analysis (!) on it and compared it against an airbag sample on earth. Confirmed match.

But are you going to ChemCam it, team?

Note the date of the tweet. October 9. No, we're not going to find out what it is despite the fact we have no idea what it is. It looks like a screw, erm, I mean plastic, though.


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Reply: 12

PostPosted: August 21, 2013 12:30 PM 

Zoost, re: your post no. 7.

They couldn't go with the wind theory because they pulled the Sol 55 Mastcam image and concluded it wasn't there on Sol 55.

"Sol-55 Mcam image repry'd and downlinked on Sol-63 of FOD location shows FOD not present"


Therefore, they were forced to go with the incredible epic stowaway saga for a piece of plastic about yea big:


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Reply: 13

PostPosted: August 21, 2013 1:13 PM 

Here's another structure that I suspect might be related to the area surrounding the plastic due to similar morphology:



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Reply: 14

PostPosted: August 21, 2013 1:38 PM 

The above image (annotated) looks very similar to a oddly-shaped rock seen on Sol 37:

These morphological similarities is why I suspect it could be related to the area of the Plastic:


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Reply: 15

PostPosted: August 21, 2013 2:48 PM 

Great topic Wildcat! You have obviously put a lot of work into this.

Where I scratch my head is that if NASA thinks its plastic from the rover or lander, then show me (or have they and I missed it?). They could put this topic to rest by simply showing the public a photo of the possible areas the plastic came from. I'm sure the mock-ups @ JPL have been photographed from top to bottom c/w cables and other loose fitting stuff wrapped in ready-to-fly plastic and tape. NASA, show me the possible places on the R/L where you think this plastic came from. It would put a lot of speculating to rest.

Or..... they really don't know what it is, but don't want to speculate and get the public all excited.

"Its something from the rover/lander" comment is a much safer statement.

For me? I simply don't know. But I'm leaning your way.

Well done!


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Reply: 16

PostPosted: August 21, 2013 4:54 PM 


This image is disjointed. I made it when I was looking to see whether the Plastic was present on Sol 55.

Basically, what I did was take two known images of the Plastic in situ. In this case, I labeled the Sol 65 MAHLI image as 2 and the Sol 61 Mastcam where it was first seen as 4.

These are superimposed over the Sol 55 Mastcam image which has been rotated to a familiar point of view.

Remember, the Plastic is all of 1.3 centimeters in size. The lighting difference between the Sol 55 Mastcam and Sol 61 Mastcam is quite noticeable. The 55 was taken a little after 4PM local whereas the the 61 was taken a little after noon local time (times per Midnight Planets). Further, they were taken from different vantage points. The Sol 55 Mastcam was taken further away from this 1.3 cm object. The Sol 61 was taken much, much closer.

It is hard to tell, but it looks like the Plastic is there (in the same upright position) in Figure 4.


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Reply: 17

PostPosted: August 21, 2013 10:37 PM 

This Sol 37 MARDI image is illustrative of the identical pattern of rocks associated with the rocks surrounding the Plastic I have observed:


This is one of the comparison images I found that convinced me I was not merely seeing things and that the pattern of rocks surrounding the Plastic were not merely there by chance or accident.


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Reply: 18

PostPosted: August 22, 2013 1:09 AM 

Similar features seen in this Sol 310 MARDI:

The darker side of the rock in the red circle could be a possible piece of the plastic itself.



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Reply: 19

PostPosted: August 22, 2013 4:08 AM 


Because I think that NASA should have investigated the "plactic piece" more to come to a more definate conclusion (all the instuments are there) than the conclusion that they think / guess that it was a piece of the rover / skycrane itself I think we should do the same. That is that need be serious about the evidence we put forward. To be honest I dont "get" your posts #13, #14 onwards. Could you be more specific to what it is you want to share with us?


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Reply: 20

PostPosted: August 22, 2013 10:37 AM 

I am looking for other instances of the Plastic in order to conclusively establish it is not Plastic.

I have taken note of the pattern of small rocks surrounding the Plastic. I am posting suspected identical patterns I have seen elsewhere.

If the Plastic is part of a larger "feature that may represent the effects of biological processes," then common sense dictates they will take pictures of identical features elsewhere using the ChemCam, MAHLI, and MARDI (which points straight down).

In this matter, I speculate that the pattern of the rocks surrounding the one known instance of Plastic could be a part of that feature.

I am using this thread to document my search.

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