Did The NASA Rover Draw A Lewd Image On Mars?
April 26, 2013

Did The NASA Rover Draw A Lewd Image On Mars?

Sometimes a rocket is just a rocket – to paraphrase Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, at least if he actually said that “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

So, perhaps the Mars Rover’s “Surface Navigation” is just indeed “Surface Navigation.”

Apparently some readers of Reddit thought otherwise. This started up a thread, “I just realized that NASA drew a penis on Mars.

This isn’t how NASA saw it at, and on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Robotics: Project: Mars Exploration Rovers site it noted:

“The Mars Exploration Rovers have traversed more than 10 kilometers over the Martian surface, using a combination of vision-enhanced autonomous drives and simple directed moves in which operators tell them where to go and motions are executed without taking pictures. When driving autonomously, MER vehicles use cameras to look ahead and avoid potential problems using Stereo Vision and GESTALT (Grid-based Estimation of Surface Traversability Applied to Local Terrain). Also, the imagery can be used with Visual Odometry software, to track features in the terrain and measure how much the rover has slipped during drives on soft or highly sloped terrain. Using these machine-vision technologies, each MER vehicle drives more safely, covers larger distances per day, and reaches further science targets. Roughly 30% of the distance driven by MER vehicles in their first 18 months was accomplished using these autonomous robotics technologies.”

Not one mention of penis.

Reports don’t make it clear whether the reportedly crude drawing was done by the Spirit or Opportunity, which both set out for Mars in 2003 and landed in 2004. The pair, which cost some $820 million, weren’t sent to Mars to deface the surface but rather to search for signs of water, a critical building block of life.

While driving around, one of the rovers appears to have randomly sketched what could be seen as something not quite proper. Following the post on the crowd sourcing blog the damage was done, and not just to the surface of the red planet. The Mail in the UK asked the question, “Did Nasa’s Rover draw a ‘gentleman sausage’ on Mars?”

To the editors at the Mail, this reporter would question whether such a sensational headline was even necessary, but also ask, “when was the last time the British landed a rover even capable of drawing anything on Mars?”

More importantly, one should remember that driving the six-wheeled, solar-powered robotic vehicle is harder (no pun intended) than parallel parking in traffic in a major city. NASA lost contact with the Spirit rover in 2010 after it became stuck in sand, but Opportunity continues to roll on.

It should also be noted that other human, or at least human-like, images have been seen on the surface of Mars.

Ever since the Viking 1 spacecraft circled the planet and broadcast images of the Maritain landscape there have been rumors of the “Face on Mars.” More than a decade ago NASA released high-resolution images that show that the face on Mars was just a mesa caught in a mix of light and shadow.

Despite NASA’s attempts to debunk the face for what it is, the rumors continue to circulate.

Perhaps now the face has the look of embarrassment!

Image Credit: NASA

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on Forbes.com, Inc.com, Cnet.com, and Fortune.com. Peter is a regular writer for redOrbit.com.

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