A Martian meteorite that landed on our planet in 1999 will be finally sent back home, with NASA’s next rover mission to Mars. The U.S. space agency plans to send a robotic rover to the Red Planet in 2020.
The chunk of alien rock was discovered in Oman around two decades ago. Researchers believe that the meteorite was shed by Mars in its early days when it collided with larger bodies. The rock, known as Sayh al Uhaymir 008, might have traveled millennia before reaching us.
The rock will be used by NASA to calibrate its next research bot whose mission is to collect rock samples from the Red Planet’s surface. The samples could be ferried to Earth, but that may take years.
The Martian Meteorite Could Be Put to Good Use
The rover also wants to help scientists learn more about the history of Mars and if the planet can be inhabited by human colonists. The rover is equipped with an instrument dubbed SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals).
SHERLOC will scan rock samples and map their chemical makeup. The tool is so precise that it can detect chemicals in rocky features that are no larger than a human hair.
NASA scientists plan to further study Sayh al Uhaymir 008 on Earth until its departure. The meteorite will be used on Mars as well to ensure that SHERLOC is calibrated properly.
Luther Beegle the head of the SHERLOC division noted that the instruments can be affected by tiny misalignments like temperature changes or exposure to Martian sand as soon as the rover lands on the planet.
Researchers estimate that 200 meteorites from Mars have reached Earth. Sayh al Uhaymir 008 was donated by London’s Natural History Museum which owns a vast meteorite collection.
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