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PSI’s R. Aileen Yingst Helps Unveil Large Mars Specimen at Maine Museum

Aileen Yingst and mars rock

PSI’s R. Aileen Yingst, left, and Florence Tan, Chair of the Small Spacecraft Coordination Group at NASA Headquarters, with the Mars specimen Taoudenni 002.  Credit: Maine Mineral & Gem Museum.

PSI Senior Scientist R. Aileen Yingst was part of the celebration when the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum (MMGM) in Bethel, Maine unveiled the largest known single Mars rock on Earth. The specimen, an asteroid impact on the Martian surface that ejected surface material into an Earth-crossing orbit, weighs 32 pounds. 

Yingst, who has worked on several Mars missions for NASA, said the specimen is extremely rare. “I'm trying not to get giddy. I think I’m supposed to look professional but I’m just about two seconds away from doing a happy dance and dancing around the rock,” Yingst said. 

“Dr. Yingst was specifically invited to make comments at the unveiling. It just made so much sense, as she lives right here in Maine, and has so much experience with Mars exploration,” said Jo Sorrell,  Communications Director at MMGM. “Everything could not have lined up more perfectly.” 

This specimen was acquired by Darryl Pitt, an MMGM consultant who also obtained for the museum the largest Moon Rock on Earth. For confirmation of his belief that the specimen was Martian, Pitt sent a small sample to Carl Agee — the director of the Institute of Meteoritics and one of the world's most renowned classification experts of Martian meteorites. Following a peer review of  Agee's analysis and confirmation this was indeed a massive piece of the planet Mars, scientists named the meteorite "Taoudenni 002" as this was the second meteorite to be recovered from near Taoudenni, Mali — a desert salt-mining center 400 miles north of Timbuktu.

Sept. 26, 2021
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