Energy

NASA’s New Mars Rover Accidentally Discovers Dinosaur Fossil During Testing

(Shutterstock/Vadim Sadovski)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter

A prototype Mars rover from the University of Saskatchewan accidentally discovered dinosaur fossils in Alberta, Canada during a testing competition in June.

The prototype rover was constructed by a design team from the University of Saskatchewan, which was testing it in a provincial park. The design team was looking for terrain that closely mimicked the Martian surface, to test prototypes of the rover.

“We initially noticed a rock that looked surprisingly like a thigh bone protruding from the ground,” Danno Peters, a student studying engineering physics at the University of Saskatchewan, told Live Science Wednesday. “It was encased in rock which was lighter than the surrounding stones.”

Experts suspect the fossil bones are part of a hadrosaurid, a type of duck-billed dinosaur. Park officials who were with the university team during the discovery were able to confirm the find as dinosaur fossils. However, the bones have not yet been excavated, which makes it difficult to establish their identity with certainty.

After the fossils were identified, the design team tested the rovers on a nearby site.

The rover competition is part of a series of testing experiments to develop technology for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover missions, which will look for signs of life, past and present in a region of Mars where life could have existed.

The rover will include a wide array of scientific instruments to test for the presence of life as well as microphones to listen to the sounds of Mars and potentially even include tiny helicopter-like drones, which would use the rover as a base for further exploration. Most notably, Mars 2020 will be equipped with a powerful laser drill which will vaporize rocks and soils to determine their composition.

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