In a story first brought to everyone’s attention by Reddit, a Mars rover has accidentally gone the route of many a tagger, and drew a penis in the sands of Mars with its tire tracks.
Every time this story gets posted on a news site, one of the first comments has the word “accidentally” in quotation marks. The resemblance to something sharpied on a bathroom wall is uncanny.
The tracks were made by one of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers, either Spirit or Opportunity. Since Spirit has been stuck in sands of Mars since 2010, this image most likely came from Opportunity, depending on how old the image is. The Mars Exploration Rovers cost over $800 million to get to Mars and operate. These rovers landed over ten years ago, and have traverse more than ten kilometers of the Martian surface between them. These probes were only intended to last months, but have spent years roaming the surface of Mars. While they generally only grab the public’s attention when they create phallic doodles, these probes have made major contributions to our understanding of Mars, including the discovery of minerals consistent with past water on the planet’s surface.
Oddly, this image illustrates a concept in psychology. The human brain is well-adapted to look for familiar patterns and images. It’s so good at this, it will often imagine images where there are none (though I admit in this case it’s pretty obvious). This comes up often in images from Mars. The infamous Face on Mars, as well as the Elephant on Mars both stem from this tendency. Psychologists call this phenomena pareidolia.
You can find the original image on NASA’s website at this link.
Robert is a science geek with a passion for science fiction. He has a BS in general biology and currently works in an occupational health lab at The University of Arizona. Additionally, Boumis has published three short stories, all science fiction, and does costuming in his spare time. His interests include classic science fiction novels, sci-fi films, filmmaking, UFOs, and video games. Follow his Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Robert-J-Boumis/142544852462290?ref=ts