I remember old sci-fi stories, where the colony ship would take generations to turn up in a new system, they'd take a brief look from orbit, land, and get overwhelmed by monsters / bacteria / natives / whatever exciting thing the author had thought up. And the obvious question was always: well, why didn't they spend a bit longer checking everything was all right? And the answer of course was that would make the story too boring.
But the contrast with Curiosity is fun. BA reports that because they've seen one odd little thing, everything is on hold until they've figured it out.
It's definitely a martian tadpole hoping for rain.
If you enhance the photo you can see the Ionian markings on the side. It's a small generation ship sent by the inhabitants of Io (who are themselves tiny) 3 billion years ago to settle on the planet.
They were wiped out by Martian frogs because they failed to take the time to properly check the planet out before landing.
Someone's going to be in trouble when they find it is something that dropped out of a fag packet ;)
To me, it wouldn't be boring. I'd be interested in the portrayal of the reaction back on Earth; I'd be interested in the dynamics of deciding what is the next most important step to take. But it would require a special writer to make it interesting to the less ardent sci-fi fans.
Eli has friends who drive Cassini, and one short answer is the speed of light. You don't get real time feedback, plus which AA doesn't go there.
Rocheworld (aka Flight of the Dragonfly) is a pretty good hard scifi book. They sent a robot first before the humans showed up but didn't get enough info beforehand to avoid trouble (of course).
If they find a bit of plastic on the ground exciting imagine what would happen if a person suddenly walked into view of curiosity's camera. and then promptly disappeared again, forever leaving the world with a unexplainable mystery.
According to the Curiosity team it's most likely a bit of plastic, possibly from the descent stage.
After tnings had cooled down, NASA gave some of those who had come to witness Apollo XI lift off for the moon a grand tour of of the recently vacated launch pad.
To our amzement the scorched grass surrounding the pad was literally littered with flotsam- not just plastic insulation shreds, but screws, washers and bits of wire and the odd electronic fitting.
The attending press flack assured us that this all merely evidence NASA's wisdom in making all critical systems triply redundant.
He did his office fairly, for we departed in greater awe of the Right Stuff, having reached the epiphany that the first men in the moon rode there on a trail of not so spare parts all provided by the lowest bidder.