NASA’s Perserverance rover has sampled a crater on Mars that may have harbored microbial life;
Scientists believe the rock was formed around 3.5 billion years ago;
Rock samples will be brought to Earth from 2023.
Cores drilled by NASA’s Perseverance rover on the surface of Mars reveal the geology of a crater that scientists suspect harbored microbial life billions of years ago, according to articles published in the journals Science and Science Advances.
The samples, obtained by the robotic vehicle and stored for future transport to Earth for further study, showed that the rock inside Jezero Crater is igneous – formed by cooling molten material. The rocks also showed signs of weathering from exposure to water, another sign that the cold and arid planet Mars has long been hot and humid.
Scientists believe the rock, formed around 3.5 billion years ago, may be sedimentary, formed from mud and sand deposited on a lake bed.
“In fact, we found no evidence of sedimentary rocks where the rover explored the floor of the crater, although we know that the crater once hosted a lake and that sediment must have been deposited. These sedimentary deposits must have eroded,” said Caltech geochemist Kenneth Farley, lead author of one of four studies published in the journals Science and Science Advances that describe the geology of the crater.
Perseverance arrived on Mars in February 2021 and has been actively working on Jezero Crater ever since, using a suite of instruments, as scientists investigate whether Earth’s closest planetary neighbor once had conditions suitable for life. .
It collects rock samples, the size of chalk on a blackboard, in tiny tubes that are to be picked up by a spacecraft in 2033 and brought to Earth for further examination, including biosignatures – indicators of life.
Jezero Crater is 45 kilometers wide, located north of the Martian equator. It appears that the area was once abundant in water and hosted a river delta, with river channels extending across the crater wall to form a large lake. Scientists suspect the crater may have harbored microbial life, with evidence possibly contained in the lake bed or coastal rocks.
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