Martian rock to be sent back to Mars in NASA's rover mission after 700,000 years

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Jul 28, 2020, 09:06 AM(IST)

Mars Perseverance rover Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

According to space engineers, the rock will be used to calibrate detectors onboard the robot rover Perseverance after it lands and begins its search for signs of past life on the planet.

A piece of Martian meteorite will go back to Mars with NASA's robot rover Perseverance. The ancient rock has been donated by the Natural History Museum in London and the rover carrying it will be propelled towards the red planet on a seven-month journey after its launch on Thursday. 

Also read: Fungus found in Chernobyl could protect humans from deadly radiations on Mars

According to space engineers, the rock will be used to calibrate detectors onboard the robot rover Perseverance after it lands and begins its search for signs of past life on the planet.

Professor Caroline Smith, the Natural History Museum’s principal curator of meteorites, said: “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?”

Smith, who is also a part of the Mars 2020 science team, said that the scientists were confident that the rock they were returning was originated on the planet (Mars). “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.”

According to the Natural History Museum in London, the Martian meteorite was created when an asteroid or comet hit the red planet about 600,000 to 700,000 years ago. The impact sprayed the debris into space. One of the pieces in the debris moved around the solar system, eventually crashing on to Earth. 

The meteorite, now called the Sayh al Uhaymir 008 or SAU 008 was discovered in Oman in 1999 and have been in London's Natural History Museum since then. 

The Perseverance rover has been fitted with a high-precision laser called Sherloc. This instrument will be used to decipher the chemical composition of rocks and determine if they might contain organic materials that indicate life once existed or still exists on Mars. This mission has included SAU 008 to ensure this is done with maximum accuracy.

“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,” added Smith. “Some of the Martian meteorites we have are very fragile. This meteorite is as tough as old boots.”

Read in App