NASA's Spirit Mars rover created these tracks shortly after touching down in 2004 to execute a turn, not amuse its handlers.
Has juvenile humor landed on Mars? The Internet is buzzing today (April 24) over a phallic design etched into the Red Planet's surface nine years ago by NASA's Spirit rover, with some folks suggesting the robot's drivers drew it on purpose out of boredom, mischievousness or some combination of the two.
But the truth is much more prosaic. The phallic shape naturally resulted when the six-wheeled Spirit, which was declared dead in 2010, made a turn, as NBC News' Alan Boyle points out. NASA's currently active Mars rovers — Spirit's twin Opportunity and the much larger Curiosity — have also made similar tracks on the Red Planet.
The photo of Spirit's tracks, which was taken by the rover itself, exploded into a bona fide meme after a forum on the popular social-news site Reddit discovered it on Tuesday (April 23). Penis graffiti on Mars? In retrospect, it's surprising it took so long.