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The NASA News item A Piece of Mars is Going Home begins:

A piece of a meteorite called Sayh al Uhaymir 008 (SaU008) will be carried on board NASA's Mars 2020 rover mission, now being built at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. This chunk will serve as target practice for a high-precision laser on the rover's arm.

which is pretty cool. But what caught my attention is:

NASA's Mars Global Surveyor included a chunk of a meteorite known as Zagami. It's still floating around the Red Planet onboard the now-defunct orbiter.

Why was a piece of the Zagami meteorite (also Wikipedia as well as here and here in JSC's Mars Meteor Compendium) put on the Mars Global Surveyor? Is it also being used for "target practice?"


From the Wikipedia article I found the paper Zagami, Enriched Basaltic Shergottite, 18 kg but so far can't find which piece went (almost) back to Mars.

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ This JPL news release may be a better reference for you to insert than that Newsweek link. My guess is that the Zagami meteorite was probably also used for calibration. The JPL article discusses what the criteria for picking what to send are. Why don't you try emailing the guy whose address is at the bottom of the Zagami meteorite page? $\endgroup$ – Phiteros Feb 14 '18 at 5:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Phiteros I don't think Mars Global Surveyor (an orbital satellite) has the type of equipment that the Mars 2020 rover is using with its sample. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 14 '18 at 10:48
  • $\begingroup$ More about the references in the Bounty in this question. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 26 '18 at 3:50
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In case anyone doesn't know, and it's maybe not obvious from the question, this meteorite is believed to be a chunk of Mars that was knocked free by an impact a couple of million years ago.

The story seems to be clear here. The scientist had bought (with his own money) a chunk of the meteorite to test his instrument (which presumably be observing some of the same minerals that are in the meteorite). A very tiny fragment of that chunk (described as a sand grain) is attached to a plaque on the global surveyor "commemorate the accomplishments of space scientists and engineers.". So it doesn't appear to serve any practical or scientific purpose on the spacecraft.

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  • $\begingroup$ Excellent answer! Well written, concise, and yet really interesting! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 26 '18 at 19:33

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