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Press Release 04-094
New Martian Meteorite Found in Antarctica

Photo of meteorite.

The meteorite as it was collected in Antarctica.
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July 20, 2004

Broadcasters: Animation/B-Roll available on Betcam SP. Please contact Dena Headlee at dheadlee@nsf.gov, 703-292-7739.

ARLINGTON, Va.— While rovers and orbiting spacecraft scour Mars searching for clues to its past, researchers have uncovered another piece of the Red Planet in Antarctica.

The new specimen was found by a field party from the U.S. Antarctic Search for Meteorites program (ANSMET) on Dec. 15, 2003, on an icefield in the Miller Range of the Transantarctic Mountains, roughly 750 kilometers (466 miles) from the South Pole. This 715.2 gram (1.5 pound) black rock, officially designated MIL 03346, was one of 1358 meteorites collected by ANSMET during the 2003-2004 austral summer.

Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History involved in classification of Antarctic finds said the mineralogy and texture of the meteorite are unmistakably Martian. The new specimen is the seventh recognized member of a group of Martian meteorites called the nakhlites, named after the first known specimen that fell in Nakhla, Egypt in 1911.

Like the other Martian meteorites, MIL 03346 is a piece of the Red Planet that can be studied in detail in the laboratory, providing a critical "reality check" for use in interpreting the wealth of images and data being returned by the spacecraft currently exploring Mars. Following the existing protocols of the US Antarctic meteorite program, scientists from around the world will be invited to request samples of the new specimen for their own detailed research.

Thought to have originated within thick lava flows that crystallized on Mars approximately 1.3 billion years ago, and sent to Earth by a meteorite impact about 11 million years ago, the nakhlites are among the older known Martian meteorites. As a result they bear witness to significant segments of the volcanic and environmental history of Mars.

The US Antarctic Meteorite program is a cooperative effort jointly supported by NSF, NASA and the Smithsonian Institution. Antarctic field work is supported by grants from NASA and NSF to Case Western Reserve University; initial examination and curation of recovered Antarctic meteorites is supported by NASA at the Astromaterials Curation facilities at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas; and initial characterization and long term curation of Antarctic meteorite samples is supported by NASA and the Smithsonian Institution at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Details of the initial characterization of the specimen and sample availability are available through a special edition of the Antarctic Meteorite Newsletter, to be immediately released on the Web and mailed to researchers worldwide.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Leslie Fink, NSF, (703) 292-5395, lfink@nsf.gov
Donald Savage, NASA, (202) 358-1727, Donald.L.Savage@nasa.gov
Jeffrey Bendix, Case Western, (216) 368-6070, Jeffrey.Bendix@case.edu
Paul Taylor, Smithsonian, (202) 357-2627, taylorp@PublicAffairs.SI.EDU

Program Contacts
Timothy McCoy, Smithsonian Institution, (202) 633-2206, mccoy.tim@nmnh.si.edu
Kevin Righter, Astromaterials Curation at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, (281) 483-5125, kevin.righter-1@nasa.gov

Related Websites
The Case Western University ANSMET page: http://geology.cwru.edu/~ansmet/
NASA's Mars Meteorite Compendium: http://curator.jsc.nasa.gov/curator/antmet/mmc/mmc.htm
An NSF fact sheet on the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) Program: http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/media/01/fsmeteorites.htm
An NSF news release about grants to study meteorite ALH84001, which some scientists believe contains evidence that microscopic life once existed on Mars: http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/press/pr9750.htm
More information about nakhlites and other Martian meteorites can be found at NASA Johnson Space Center's Astromaterials Curation website.: http://curator.jsc.nasa.gov/curator/antmet/marsmets/contents.htm
A news release about research by NSF-supported scientists indicating that dust-covered glaciers in Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valleys may lock up water just below the valley surface: http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/03/pr03149.htm

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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Photo of person processing meteorite.
Meteorite MIL 03346 in the meteorite processing laboratory at the Johnson Space Center.
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Photo of a person on the icefield.
A member of the 2003-2004 ANSMET team searches the Miller Range icefield in the Transantarctic ...
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Illustration of impact after large piece of debris strikes planet
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This NSF animation shows how material from the surface of Mars can travel to Earth and become a ...
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Illustration of impact after large piece of debris strikes planet
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Download broadcast quality version of the NSF animation.
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