Life On Mars? NASA’s Perseverance Rover Will Acquire The First Sample Soon

January 30, 2023
Photo by Planet Volumes on Unsplash

The first NASA rover launched to look for evidence of prehistoric life is called Perseverance. NASA launched two landers to Mars nearly 50 years ago, making it the first American mission to do so successfully. The 1975 Viking mission’s goal was to search for living organisms on Mars, but it was unsuccessful. Even today, there are representations of outer space in the form of movies and games on platforms like Netflix, casino Canada, and many more from where people can take inspiration and better understand the facts.

According to Mary Voytek, a senior astrobiology scientist at NASA. The Viking Landers’ ambiguous findings demonstrated the necessity for more research into Mars’ surface and potential homes. Later, orbiter, lander, and rover missions probed the possibility that Mars was once habitable. To understand how life came to be on Earth, they first concentrated on looking for evidence of prehistoric water. The foundation was laid by rovers like Spirit and Opportunity, launched in 2003, and Curiosity, established in 2011, allowing Perseverance to start looking for ancient bacteria in the rocks and soil on Mars.

Perseverance is looking in the Jezero crater on Mars. Theoretically, this was once a lake nourished by rivers flowing from Mars. The rover will be heading straight for a river delta at the crater’s edge over the coming months. Like river deltas on Earth, geologists anticipate discovering countless layers of rich geological history locked in the sand. This makes digging samples that may include traces of previous Martian life ideal. It would be an astonishing discovery, experts believe, and one that would require empirical proof to confirm the existence of ancient life on another planet. The rover has already started gathering pieces of Martian rock and is outfitted with drills and sample containers. It has collected and stored six samples in its first year, potentially gathering up to 40.

Collectively, NASA and the European Space Agency are developing a mission to gather those samples, launch them off the surface of Mars, and bring them back to Earth safely.

Ten Months of Perseverance Yielded New Martian Scientific Findings

The findings were announced on December 15, 2021, at a press conference held in New Orleans during the American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting. NASA’s Resilience Since its landing on Mars, the rover has spent ten months investigating two distinct geologic units on the Jezero Crater floor. Perseverance accessed the Sétah geologic unit in October after exploring and collecting its first two samples from the Crater Floor geologic unit. The science team may now begin to comprehend the relationship between these distinctive geologic units and their position in the geologic history of Jezero, thanks to the rover’s recent analysis of numerous Sétah outcrops.

Scalding Magma

Even though there is already strong evidence for the previous lake, geologists were still unsure about the makeup of some of Jezero’s crater floors. Scientists posed the pursuing inquiries:

  • Were the rocks igneous, created by lava that was previously flowing?
  • Or were they sedimentary, made up of minerals deposited in the lake by the long-gone river?
  • How did the rover make this discovery?

The latest findings demonstrate that at least some of the crater bottom is made of lava. Rover ground into rocks with its robotic arm. The composition was then determined by carefully inspecting the freshly ground surfaces with additional tools.

Water-Induced Change

Scientists examined a rock called Brac in the South Setah region using the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry, or PIXL. The fact that is interesting to note is the study showed massive olivine crystals encased in pyroxene crystals. The structure of the rock suggests that it was formed when crystals grew and settled in a slowly cooling magma, which means there is evidence for both magma and water in the distant past. The rock was then repeatedly transformed by water, making it a treasure trove that will enable future researchers to date events in Jezero, better comprehend the time when water was more prevalent on its surface, and shed light on the planet’s early past.

Rocks and Dust With Organics

The presence of organic molecules in rocks and dust is another fascinating finding. Perseverance discovered them using its SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals) equipment. Being the foundation of life, organics are a fascinating discovery. However, organics can be produced by both biological and non-biological processes. Scientists still need to determine if these specific organics are from once-living organisms or not. It’s not the first time we’ve discovered organic material on Mars, either.

Use of Ground-Penetrating Radar

Additionally, Perseverance is the first rover on Mars to employ ground-penetrating radar. A “radargram” of subsurface structures up to about 33 feet (10 meters) deep is produced by the RIMFAX. Perseverance successfully acquired the first radargram near a ridgeline between the Sétah geology unit and the Crater Floor Fractured Rough geologic unit. The information demonstrated those different rock formations beneath the surface all tilt at the same angle. The Crater Floor Fractured Rough rock layers are positioned beneath the Sétah rock layers. It can be concluded from this that Sétah originated before Crater Floor Fractured Rough.

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