Scientists behind NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover were astounded last night, when its on-board instruments beamed back pictures of the planet’s surface in which a set of car keys are clearly visible.
The keys – believed to be those of a 1973 Ford Pinto – were discovered in an area known as the Zabriskie Plateau at around 11pm Earth time last night, and have left the NASA team running the project completely baffled as to how they could have arrived there.
One theory is that the keys may belong to one of the scientists who worked on the 1975 Viking 1 Mars Lander mission, and attempts are now underway to make contact with those involved in the mission who are still living, in order to determine if this is indeed the case.
“Curiosity has beamed back all manner of exciting and important data since landing on Mars’ Gale Crater in August 2012,” Project Manager, Rudolf Schmidt said, “but though we all had our own hopes and expectations about what we’d find on Mars, I don’t think anyone could have anticipated a discovery such as these keys.”
It is now hoped that the upcoming joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency to send a probe to Mars and bring back soil samples in 2016 can be used to attempt to retrieve the keys and return them to Earth for further analysis. Assuming the keys have not been overly contaminated by cosmic radiation, they will then be returned to their rightful owner, should he or she have been identified.
If no owner can be traced for the keys, or should the owner no longer require them, they will be placed on display in the visitor complex of the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida’s Cape Canaveral, to be enjoyed by future generations of space enthusiasts.