Mars bid scientists examine meteorite

SCIENTISTS working on a project to send a probe to Mars have began studying one of Britain's most precious space artefacts – an ancient meteorite.

Representatives of Nasa and the European Space Agency, or ESA, landed in York on Thursday to examine a meteorite which hit North Yorkshire in 1881.

The scientists hope to carry out a 3D scan on the surface of the 4,500 million-year-old Middlesbrough Meteorite, which is currently at the Yorkshire Museum.

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The experts will then load the information on to the Mars probe so it can recognise meteorites when it touches down in 2017.

Martin Lunn, curator of astronomy at the museum, said:

"The scientists are coming to the museum to catalogue it with the latest 3D mapping technology.

"We are delighted that an artefact from the Yorkshire Museum will be helping the Europe and Americas space programme, and it is fascinating to think that when they launch the probe into outer space there will be information from our meteorite on board."

The Middlesbrough Meteorite smashed to earth in March 1881 and a booming sound was reported over north-east Yorkshire.

A few seconds later workmen at a railway siding in Middlesbrough heard a rushing or roaring sound overhead, followed by a thud, as the space debris buried itself in the embankment nearby.

The British Museum asked for the relic, but it ended up at the Yorkshire Museum after the North East Railway company deemed the meteorite lost property, because it fell on its land, and insisted that it stayed in Yorkshire.