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Mars rover cake
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe is presented with a commemorative birthday cake marking the one-year anniversary of the Mars rover Spirit's landing. (1min 21sec file)
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Rover news briefing
On the one-year anniversary of Spirit's landing on Mars, mission officials hold a status news conference on the twin exploration rovers to discuss the latest findings and future plans for the craft. (31min 20sec file)
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NASA chief speech
During celebrations marking the Mars rover milestone on Jan. 3, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe gave this speech at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (10min 20sec file)
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The Mars rover story
Storyteller Syd Lieberman presents "Twelve Wheels on Mars" that describes the adventure to build, launch and explore with the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. (54min 57sec file)
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Dec. 14 rover update
Steve Squyres of Cornell University, the rovers' principal investigator, discusses the latest discoveries from Spirit and Opportunity.
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Station status report
International Space Station program officials hold a status briefing Dec. 9 on the progress of Expedition 10. They discussed the food supply concerns and many other topics. (52min 53sec file)
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John Young tribute
A gala at the National Air and Space Museum pays tribute to retiring space pioneer John Young. America's most experienced astronaut is leaving NASA this month after an extraordinary 42-year career. (1hr 24min file)
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Shuttle program update
Space shuttle program manager Bill Parsons, deputy program manager Wayne Hale and integration manager John Casper hold a news conference in Houston on Monday to provide an update on Return to Flight work. (61min 35sec file)
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Shuttle work
This collection of footage illustrates activities underway throughout NASA on the external tank, orbiter in-flight inspection techniques and pre-launch processing work at the Cape. (9min 05sec file)
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Opportunity rover finds an iron meteorite on Mars
NASA/JPL NEWS RELEASE
Posted: January 19, 2005

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has found an iron meteorite, the first meteorite of any type ever identified on another planet.


Opportunity finds meteorite on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
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The pitted, basketball-size object is mostly made of iron and nickel according to readings from spectrometers on the rover. Only a small fraction of the meteorites fallen on Earth are similarly metal-rich. Others are rockier. As an example, the meteorite that blasted the famous Meteor Crater in Arizona is similar in composition.

"This is a huge surprise, though maybe it shouldn't have been," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the science instruments on Opportunity and its twin, Spirit.

The meteorite, dubbed "Heat Shield Rock," sits near debris of Opportunity's heat shield on the surface of Meridiani Planum, a cratered flatland that has been Opportunity's home since the robot landed on Mars nearly one year ago.

"I never thought we would get to use our instruments on a rock from someplace other than Mars," Squyres said. "Think about where an iron meteorite comes from: a destroyed planet or planetesimal that was big enough to differentiate into a metallic core and a rocky mantle."

Rover-team scientists are wondering whether some rocks that Opportunity has seen atop the ground surface are rocky meteorites. "Mars should be hit by a lot more rocky meteorites than iron meteorites," Squyres said. "We've been seeing lots of cobbles out on the plains, and this raises the possibility that some of them may in fact be meteorites. We may be investigating some of those in coming weeks. The key is not what we'll learn about meteorites -- we have lots of meteorites on Earth -- but what the meteorites can tell us about Meridiani Planum."

The numbers of exposed meteorites could be an indication of whether the plain is gradually eroding away or being built up.

NASA Chief Scientist Dr. Jim Garvin said, "Exploring meteorites is a vital part of NASA's scientific agenda, and discovering whether there are storehouses of them on Mars opens new research possibilities, including further incentives for robotic and then human-based sample-return missions. Mars continues to provide unexpected science 'gold,' and our rovers have proven the value of mobile exploration with this latest finding."

Initial observation of Heat Shield Rock from a distance with Opportunity's miniature thermal emission spectrometer suggested a metallic composition and raised speculation last week that it was a meteorite. The rover drove close enough to use its Moessbauer and alpha particle X-ray spectrometers, confirming the meteorite identification over the weekend.

Opportunity and Spirit successfully completed their primary three-month missions on Mars in April 2004. NASA has extended their missions twice because the rovers have remained in good condition to continue exploring Mars longer than anticipated. They have found geological evidence of past wet environmental conditions that might have been hospitable to life.

Opportunity has driven a total of 2.10 kilometers (1.30 miles). Minor mottling from dust has appeared in images from the rover's rear hazard-identification camera since Opportunity entered the area of its heat-shield debris, said Jim Erickson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., rover project manager. The rover team plans to begin driving Opportunity south toward a circular feature called "Vostok" within about a week.

Spirit has driven a total of 4.05 kilometers (2.52 miles). It has been making slow progress uphill toward a ridge on "Husband Hill" inside Gusev Crater.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, has managed NASA's Mars Exploration Rover project since it began in 2000.

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Exploring Mars
Astronomy Now is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring Mars. The very best images of Mars taken by orbiting spacecraft and NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers fill up the 98 glossy pages of this special edition!
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Ares 1-X Patch
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The official embroidered patch for mission STS-125, the space shuttle's last planned service call to the Hubble Space Telescope, is available for purchase.
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