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NASA's Mars 2020 Rover to Send Back Martian Meteorite forTarget Practice

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is going to carry a chunk of an ancient Martian meteorite back to its home planet. Ancient pieces of Mars have been resting on Earth in the form of meteorites, which scientists determined blew off Mars’s surface millions of years ago. Now, scientists have decided to send a chunk known as Sayh al Uhaymir 008 (SAU008) aboard the rover, NASA announced Tuesday.

The soon-to-be meteorite passenger is going to be used as target practice for a laser technology designed to examine rock features on Mars as fine as human hair. The laser instrument known as SHERLOC (short for Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) will study Martian rock—but scientists need a testing spot first.

“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,” Luther Beegle, principal investigator for SHERLOC from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. “By studying how the instrument sees a fixed target, we can understand how it will see a piece of the Martian surface.”

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