By David Nield
Humans are about to make history by sending a little piece of a Martian rock back to the surface of Mars for the first time ever.
The meteorite fragment Sayh al Uhaymir 008 (or SaU 008) will hitch a ride on the 2020 NASA Perseverance rover mission on Thursday – some 600,000 years after it left the Red Planet, and around 1,000 years after arriving on Earth.
Perseverance is going to use SaU 008 to calibrate its sensitive scanners and instruments once it lands, treating it as a reference point for the other rocks and materials that it’s going to come across in its journey across the Martian surface.
There’s still plenty that we don’t know about the geological make-up of Mars, and a rock fragment that we know originates from the planet – and that has already been extensively analysed – is going to be a helpful comparison point.
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