It was certainly a long and rough ride for Mars rover Curiosity before it finally arrived on Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons), where scientists hope it could gather crucial data that will reveal the history of Mars and possibly even provide evidence that life once existed in the arid and lifeless planet.

After over two years since it landed and started traversing toward Mount Sharp, NASA's car-sized rover has started drilling for samples. On Sept. 24, Curiosity drilled into an outcrop at the 3-mile-high Mount Sharp, creating its first sample collection hole 2.6 inches deep and measuring 0.63 inches wide, where it collected samples of powdered rock temporarily kept within a sample handing mechanism.

"This drilling target is at the lowest part of the base layer of the mountain, and from here we plan to examine the higher, younger layers exposed in the nearby hills," said Ashwin Vasavada, senior scientist at the NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "This first look at rocks we believe to underlie Mount Sharp is exciting because it will begin to form a picture of the environment at the time the mountain formed, and what led to its growth."

Powdered rock samples may be something that interests scientists and is crucial for studying the Red Planet, but many are apparently more interested in bizarre-looking objects that the rover finds. A strange and more Earth-like object that was recently captured by Curiosity's camera, for instance, has caught the attention of Mars mission enthusiasts on the Internet. While the rover was traversing toward Mount Sharp's Pahrump Hills a few weeks back, it took photos of the landscape and eventually captured an image of a seemingly perfect ball sitting on the dry surface.

The shape of the object may not be something that people have in mind when thinking of Martian rocks, but NASA scientists said that the object is not something new. This type of rock can be found in a number of regions in Mars and, according to scientists, were formed by a process known as concretion. NASA scientists also said that the ball is actually small. It is just 1 cm wide albeit it looks bigger in the images released by the U.S. space agency.

The ball-shaped rock isn't the first odd object that Curiosity has found. The rover's exploration on the Red Planet is marked by strange-looking finds. Earlier this year, Curiosity snapped a photo of an odd structure that looked like a thigh bone.

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.