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Sun Jul 26, 2020, 08:09 AM

Rock from Mars heads home after 600,000 years on Earth [View all]

Tiny piece of meteorite from London’s Natural History Museum will be used by rover exploring red planet

Robin McKie
Published onSun 26 Jul 2020 02.10 EDT

A small piece of rock will be hurled into space this week on one of the strangest interplanetary voyages ever attempted. A tiny piece of Martian basalt the size of a 10p coin will be launched on board a US robot probe on Thursday and propelled towards the red planet on a seven-month journey to its home world.

This extraordinary odyssey, the interplanetary equivalent of sending coals to Newcastle, will form a key part of Nasa’s forthcoming Mars 2020 expedition. Space engineers say the rock – which has been donated by the Natural History Museum in London – will be used to calibrate detectors on board the robot rover Perseverance after it lands and begins its search for signs of past life on the planet.

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

Scientists were confident that the rock they were returning to Mars originated on the planet, added Smith, who is also a member of the Mars 2020 science team. “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.”


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Reply Rock from Mars heads home after 600,000 years on Earth [View all]
Judi Lynn Jul 2020 OP
soothsayer Jul 2020 #1
underpants Jul 2020 #2
SCantiGOP Jul 2020 #5
underpants Jul 2020 #6
abqtommy Jul 2020 #3
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