Water-altered rocks discovered on Mars, stored for return to Earth by Perseverance rover – News

Using NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover, a crew of scientists together with University of Florida astrobiologist Amy Williams has collected the primary Martian rock samples that may very well be returned to Earth – step one towards answering if the pink planet ever hosted life.

The rock samples come from the ground of Jezero crater, which was chosen because the examine web site as a result of it sports activities a big river delta that when flowed into an historic lake. Scientists imagine {that a} watery Mars might have supported life billions of years in the past.

“These kinds of environments on Earth are places where life thrives. The goal of exploring the Jezero delta and crater is to look in these once-habitable environments for rocks that might contain evidence of ancient life,” mentioned Williams, a professor of geology at UF. Williams is without doubt one of the long-term planners for the Perseverance mission and helps resolve the place to ship the rover and what checks and samples to prioritize. Media/newsufledu/images/2022/08/Williams-square-resized-199×199.jpg” alt=”A picture of Amy Williams” type=”width : 199px; height : 199px; float : right;” class=””/>

The mission science crew offered its findings from its exploration of the Jezero crater ground, together with an outline of the rock samples collected there, in Science on Aug. 25. The rover is now surveying the river delta to gather extra rock samples for the Mars Sample Return mission. 

Led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Perseverance landed on the backside of the Jezero crater in February 2021. Since then, scientists have explored the geological make-up of the crater ground utilizing a set of instruments on board the rover that may take footage of and analyze the chemical composition of rocks, in addition to see their construction within the subsurface.

The scientific crew found that the crater ground had eroded greater than they anticipated. The erosion uncovered a crater made up of rocks fashioned from lava and magma, generally known as igneous rocks. Scientists initially anticipated that sedimentary lake or delta rocks would lay on high of those igneous rocks. It’s possible that the softer sedimentary rocks wore away over eons, leaving the harder igneous rocks behind.

The rocks the scientists analyzed and saved for return to earth have been altered by water, additional proof of a watery previous on Mars.

“We have organisms on Earth that live in very similar kinds of rocks,” Williams mentioned. “And the aqueous alteration of the minerals has the potential to record biosignatures.”

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The route the Perseverance Mars rover took from its touchdown web site to its first failed try at taking a rock pattern (Roubion) on to the positioning of its first profitable rock pattern assortment (Citadelle). The journey took roughly seven months. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS)

NASA and the European Space Agency are planning to return the rock samples to Earth round 2033. The formidable plan requires constructing the primary car that may launch from the floor of Mars and rendezvous with an orbiter that ferries the samples again to Earth.

The payoff for that herculean process will likely be extremely detailed research of the rock samples that can’t be carried out on the rover. These research embody measuring the age of the rocks and on the lookout for indicators of historic life. Because the rock samples taken on the backside of the crater possible predate the river delta, courting these rocks will present vital details about the age of the lake.

“I’m excited about what’s coming next,” Williams mentioned.

Eric Hamilton August 25, 2022

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