Not too far from the wreckage of its reentry heatshield, Mars Rover Opportunity has found an iron meteorite lying in the soil. My first thought was that it might just be more heatshield debris, but no part of a spacecraft looks so clearly like a shiny rock as that, and the rover scientists seem to have confirmed it as an actual meteorite. Now, a person should be lucky enough to find a meteorite on the ground at some point during his daily travels here on Earth. The chances of a slow-moving robot finding one so close to its own discarded pieces on another planet must be astronomical. (On the other hand, Mars’ much thinner atmosphere would let more space debris down to the surface intact, wouldn’t it?)
Know Your Space Rock Jargon:
- Rock is still in space.
- Rock is entering atmosphere as a “shooting star.”
- Rock has landed intact on the ground, where it can be found by people and rovers.