Space agency, NASA, will send a million-year-old Mars meteorite back to the Red Planet via its rover, which is scheduled to leave Earth in 2020.
The ancient Martian rock, called ‘Sayh al Uhaymir 008’ or ‘SaU008’, was once part of a meteorite that crashed on Earth after it separated from its home planet millions of years ago.
According to NASA ‘Sayh al Uhaymir 008’ was discovered in Oman in 1999 and is one of 200 similar rocks that’s strong enough to withstand the journey back to Mars.
Scientists believe that the Mars meteorite separated from the Red Planet during one of its numerous collisions with other large bodies, something that regularly occurred during the planet’s early days.
NASA is currently building the rover which will carry out the task inside the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Once the rock lands on Mars, the rover will then use the chunk as target practice in order to calibrate a high-precision laser named ‘SHERLOC’. The laser will be located on the rover’s robotic arm.
NASA will use ‘SHERLOC’ to analyze rock and chemical features as small as a human hair, something which will also help the rover know where to navigate the planet. The agency had used rock, metals, and pieces of glass in the past to adjust similar technology to its new surroundings.
However, this time, NASA thought that the Martian rock would be a great starting point for the rover to test its laser capabilities.
“By studying how the instrument sees a fixed target, we can understand how it will see a piece of the Martian surface.” Luther Beegle, NASA’s principal investigator, said.
NASA scientists will first analyze the Martian rock here to establish whether SHERLOC can produce correct analyses.
The rover will also carry with it several materials from Earth, including those that could be used to make spacesuits from. This will allow NASA to observe whether these materials can withstand the conditions of Mars.
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