After being discovered earlier this year, the largest piece of Mars rock on Earth is now on display for anyone to see. When discussing space exploration in 2021, Mars is often the biggest talking point for many people. Multiple robotics are actively conducting missions on the Red Planet, NASA plans to send its first human mission to Mars in the 2030s, and it’s long been believed that Mars was once home to ancient life.
At this very moment, NASA’s Perseverance rover is on a one-of-a-kind mission. Not only is it searching for signs of life on Mars, but it’s also tasked with collecting rock samples that’ll eventually be returned to Earth. If Perseverance is successful with that mission, it’ll mark the first time rocks have been collected on Mars with the intent of bringing them back home. However, that’s not to say parts of Mars don’t already exist here on Earth. Thanks to asteroids and other debris hurtling through space, about 300 samples of Mars rock — totaling roughly 500lbs — are already here. Now, one of the most impressive is available for anyone to see.
In a recent post published on its Facebook page, the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum shared pictures of Martian rock that it now has on display for one week. The rock in question (known as Toaudenni 002) is the largest piece of Mars currently on Earth and is an astounding showcase of the fascinating Martian surface. After spending a week at the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum, Toaudenni 002 will then make its “national debut” at the Hard Rock Summit in Denver before returning to the Mineral & Gem Museum on September 24.
There’s a good chance most folks haven’t heard of Toaudenni 002 before, and that’s OK! The rock was just discovered this year near a salt mine in Mail, West Africa — making it one of the most recent Martian rock discoveries here on Earth. It’s not known for certain which meteorite brought Toaudenni 002 to the planet, but experts believe it’s one from “the last few 100 years.” Toaudenni 002 clocks in at a hefty 14.51kg — or nearly 32lbs. It’s difficult to pin an exact number on meteorite pricing, though it’s safe to assume a specimen like Toaudenni 002 would fetch a hefty penny. Geology.com notes prices can range anywhere from $50/gram to $1,000/gram depending on a meteorite’s makeup and rarity. Going by its reporting that “rare examples of lunar and Martian meteorites” can warrant the $1,000/gram rate, that means Toaudenni 002 could be valued up to $14.5 million or more.
Speaking to Live Science, director of the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico, Carl Agee, provides additional insight on the chemical makeup of Toaudenni 002. As Agee explains, “It is a shergottite, which is the main type of Martian meteorite. It contains the minerals olivine, pyroxene and shock-transformed feldspar.” Not only do these things confirm Martian origin, but they also provide insight into how this particular rock formed on Mars. Agee believes it was formed by a “volcanic episode” on the planet over 100 million years ago — making its size and excellently preserved condition all the more impressive. For anyone in the Maine or Denver area and interested in space, definitely try to check out Toaudenni 002 if you have the chance!