NASA Mars Rover Makes a Charming Zen Rock Garden by Accident


This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

Mars has a lot of rocks and a lot of sand, which makes it a pretty perfect location to explore the art of zen rock gardens. On Earth, these Japanese-style gardens have sand or gravel raked around rock features. And that’s pretty much what they look like on Mars, too.

NASA’s Perseverance rover is a rolling laboratory, but it did a good impression of a landscape designer in an image highlighted by the rover team on Twitter. The image, shared Tuesday, shows a prominent rock with lines of sand around it that were fashioned by the rover’s wheel treads.

Many Perseverance tweets are cheerfully written from the rover’s imagined first-person perspective. “Making some accidental zen art as I drive. Mars may be desolate, but it has a certain charm,” the team said. 

The rover is exploring the Jezero Crater, collecting rock samples and looking for signs of ancient microbial life. It recently kicked off its second science campaign, a journey through a former river delta region with an intriguing history of water. 

Zen gardens on our planet encourage visitors to slow down and be in the moment, to meditate and find a place of calm in a busy world. If you don’t have one near you, perhaps you can find a similar sensation in Percy’s serendipitous work of Martian land art.


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