NASA plans to mount a chunk of a martian meteorite on the agency’s Mars 2020 rover to serve as a calibration target for a high-precision laser instrument. Image: NASA
A piece of Mars that fell to Earth as a meteorite after being blasted away from the red planet during an ancient asteroid impact will be flown home courtesy of NASA. And London’s Natural History Museum.
The U.S. space agency plans to mount a chunk of the meteorite, known as Sayh al Uhaymir 008, or SaU008, on its Mars 2020 rover to serve as a calibration target for a high-precision laser instrument that can detect features as fine as a human hair. The instrument, the Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals, or SHERLOC, will be the first on Mars to use spectroscopic analysis familiar to forensics experts to detect carbon-based chemicals – the building blocks of life as it is known on Earth.
But the instrument’s high precision requires careful calibration.
“We’re studying things on such a fine scale that slight misalignments, caused by changes in temperature or even the rover settling into sand, can require us to correct our aim,” said Luther Beegle, the SHERLOC ...