Down in the weeds of the back story behind this morning’s story on the UNM team’s identification of a Martian meteorite is the connection between the rock’s chemistry and the work done by NASA scientists studying rocks in Gusev crater on Mars using the Spirit rover.
One of the intriguing puzzles in Mars research has been the disconnect between Martian meteorites – the few samples we have to look at here on Earth – and the findings of the Mars rover teams. The rocks the rovers saw just look different from the bulk of the meteorites we have. But the discovery by Carl Agee at UNM’s Institute of Meteoritics that Northwest Africa 7034 is Martian provides a sort of “missing link”.
Larry Crumpler, a scientist at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science who has long worked on the NASA rover science teams, said Agee’s rock offers important connections to the geology Spirit’s scientists saw in their on-the-ground tour of Gusev. In particular, Spirit scientists believed they had seen evidence that younger volcanic rocks on Mars had interacted with water, and now Agee’s rock seems to be telling a similar story. From an email (published with permission):
What this result does is say, yes there is now petrologic evidence from a Martian meteorite that the Spirit observation were not spurious. Instead some actual specimen evidence in our hands now that relatively young basalts on Mars, have seen lots of water. Which means that not all the water damage on Mars is ancient early age stuff.This is similar to what was starting to emerge from the Gusev results.