Mars Rover Spots Another Meteorite
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has found a rock that apparently is another meteorite. Dubbed "Shelter Island," the meteorite is about 18.5 inches (47 centimeters) long.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA?s intrepid Mars rover Opportunity has found yet another meteorite on the surface of the red planet.

Opportunity stumbled upon this new meteorite, dubbed "Shelter Island," less than three weeks after driving away from a larger meteorite that the rover examined for six weeks.

The rover began its approach to the meteorite with a 92-foot (28-meter) backwards drive on Oct. 1, the rover's 2,022nd day on Mars.

Opportunity and its twin rover Spirit ? which is currently embedded in a soft spot of soil called Troy ? have been on the Martian surface for more than five years.

Shelter Island is a pitted rock is about 18.5 inches (47 cm) long. The meteorite was first detected in images taken two Martian days earlier. (A Martian day is 24 hours and 40 minutes long.)

Two Martian days after its backward drive, Opportunity turned around to face the meteorite. In the days that followed, it made a final 3.3-foot (1-meter) move to put the rock within reach of the rover robotic arm . Mission managers are now planning to use the arm to contact the meteorite and make measurements.

Opportunity has driven about 2,300 feet (700 meters) since it finished studying the meteorite called "Block Island" on Sept. 11, 2009.

Block Island weighs at least half a ton, is composed of iron and nickel, and is likely too large to have plunged through the current thin atmosphere of Mars without being obliterated upon impact, scientists say.

Both meteorites have been found during Opportunity's trek to its next target, Endeavour Crater.

Opportunity also found a third meteorite, Heat Shield Rock, in 2004.