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Mars yields new type of space junk

For future archaeologists, the American roadside will produce a wealth of material to study.

On the verge of any heavily traveled U.S. highway, even the least observant traveler will notice the massive collection of roadside stuff that has been flung from or fallen off our vehicles – hubcaps; rusted exhaust pipes; mufflers; fender liners; bumpers and pieces of bumpers; shredded tires; crushed auto glass; broken taillights; America’s great gift to civilization, the beer can; garbage bags; and the litter ensuing when the family car doubles as the family dining room.

What brings this to mind is a dispatch from NASA noting that the highly successful Martian rover, Curiosity, discovered a shiny object on the ground.

If it’s not from Curiosity, then we really have a mystery on our hands. But the craft bristles with scoops, drills, antennas, cameras, air samplers and the like, so the most likely theory is that this object is something that fell off Curiosity.

Even the great wits at NASA probably balked at the idea of having Curiosity surreptitiously toss out an empty pizza carton so it could be “discovered” later on. (What a great report to Congress that would be: “We didn’t discover evidence of life, but we did discover evidence of large cheese with pepperoni.”)

Still, this mysterious object may represent a breakthrough of sorts: The first known piece of roadside litter in space.