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Space Center Houston Visitors Now Can Touch a Piece of Mars
08.03.12
 
S80-37633: EETA 79001 Martian meteorite

The EETA 79001 Martian meteorite. Photo credit: NASA

Mars. The Red Planet. It’s the most Earth-like planet in the solar system (other than Earth), but even more powerful an attraction to it are the stories about it. It’s a subject of mystery and has a longstanding history as a topic in science fiction.

It’s no longer distant—both in terms of physical distance and in terms of mythology. In fact, you can touch a piece of it at Space Center Houston beginning Aug. 5.

The rock at Space Center Houston is a piece from the EETA 79001 Martian meteorite found in the Antarctic in 1980. It was found on the ice at the Elephant Moraine location near Reckling Peak, Victoria Land, Antarctica. Part of the Antarctic meteorite collection at JSC, the sample is about 180 million years old – very young on the solar system scale – and is believed to have been thrown from Mars into space approximately 600,000 years ago. At 17.4 pounds, the original rock is one of the largest Mars meteorites ever found.

This sample is especially important because glassy inclusions in it were found to contain rare-gas and nitrogen isotope compositions matching those of the Martian atmosphere as determined by the Viking spacecraft, hence demonstrating the Martian origin for this class of meteorites.

The Astromaterials Acquisition and Curation Office at Johnson Space Center provided the sample. The office, part of the center’s Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Directorate, is responsible for the curation of extraterrestrial samples from NASA's past and future sample return missions including the preservation, preparation and distribution of samples from the moon, asteroids, comets, the solar wind and the planet Mars.

Space Center Houston is the official Visitors Center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. For more information, visit:

http://spacecenter.org/MarsLanding.html

For information on EETA79001, visit:

http://curator.jsc.nasa.gov/antmet/samples/petdes.cfm?sample=EET79001
http://curator.jsc.nasa.gov/antmet/mmc/79001.pdf

For information about ARES, visit:

http://ares.jsc.nasa.gov/ares/index.cfm