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NASA is sending a million year old piece of Mars back to Earth

File photo: The planet Mars show the tones of Terra Meridiani is seen in an undated NASA image. (REUTERS/NASA/Greg Shirah)

A million-year-old rock is flying home.

The old rock, named “Sayh al Uhaymir 008,” or “SaU008,” was once part of a meteorite that landed on Earth after blowing out the Mars of millions of years ago.

SaU008 was discovered in Oman in 1999, and is the only one of the 200 similar rocks that are strong enough to withstand the journey back home, according to NASA.

“Every year, we offer hundreds of meteorite samples to scientists around the world for study,” Caroline Smith, the principal curator of meteorites at London’s Natural History Museum – the rock, says in the press release. “This is a first for us: the sending of one of our samples back home for the benefit of science.”

The meteorite piece back to Mars as part of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission. Once this is done, SaU008 will be blown to bits in order to calibrate a high-precision laser, with the name ‘SHERLOC’ that will be placed on the rover’s robotic arm.

SHERLOC is designed to examine the rock, and chemical properties as fine as human hair and will need something to get the bearings on the alien planet. In the past, NASA has used made of stone, metal and pieces of glass to help adapt similar technology to the new mars environment.

But this time, NASA thought that it might be more effective to take something that already has the same composition as the planet SHERLOC is designed to explore.

“We study what such a fine scale that minor deviations, caused by changes in the temperature or even the rover, the settlement in sand, we must understand our goal,” Luther Beegle, NASA’s principal investigator, said. “By studying how the instrument sees a fixed target, we can understand how to see a piece of the Martian surface.”

Once the laser is adjusted, the picture rocks on Mars and the use of a UV light to analyze and to search for signs of life.

This story was previously published in the New York Post.

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