A small meteorite from mars will be heading home on a US Probe Robot on Thursday said NASA.
The meteorite will perform a key function in NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 expedition where it will be used to calibrate detectors on board of the rover Perseverance which aims to look for possible signs of life on the red planet.
The small meteorite was discovered in the deserts of Oman in the year 1999known as Sayh al Uhaymir 008, or SaU 008, which is a classic piece of basalt. It contains a lot of pyroxenes, olivine, and feldspar minerals and is one of the meteorites that is studied well.
The rock is well preserved in London’s Natural History Museum (NHM) and will be making its home after 6, 00,000 years of stay on earth.
Speaking to the reporters, Prof Caroline Smith, head of Earth sciences collections at the NHM said “This little rock’s got quite a life story,” “It formed about 450 million years ago, got blasted off Mars by an asteroid or comet roughly 600,000-700,000 years ago, and then landed on Earth; we don’t know precisely when but perhaps 1,000 years ago. And now it’s going back to Mars,” she told a leading news channel.
She continued saying “When you turn on instruments and begin to tune them up before using them for research, you calibrate them on materials that are going to be like the unknown substances you are about to study. So what better for studying rocks on Mars than a lump that originated there?”
The rock along with 9 other types of material will be put on housing which will be detected and scanned from time to time by the Sherloc instrument on board of the robot.
Prof Caroline Smith who is also a member of Mars 2020 science team said “Tiny bubbles of gas trapped inside that meteorite have exactly the same composition as the atmosphere of Mars, so we know our rock came from there.” She continued “The piece of rock we are sending was specifically chosen because it is the right material in terms of chemistry, but also it is a very tough rock,” Smith added. “Some of the Martian meteorites we have are very fragile. This meteorite is as tough as old boots”.
Once Perseverance has selected the most promising rocks it can find, it will dump them in caches on the Martian surface. These will then be retrieved by subsequent robot missions and blasted into space towards Earth for analysis.