Mars Rocks Collected by NASA’s Perseverance Best Case for Ancient Life

Perseverance collected its first sample on September 6 (dubbed “Montdenier”), and its second on September 8 (dubbed “Montagnac”) from the same rock.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover has collected two rock samples. There are signs that they were in direct contact with water for a prolonged period of time, which supports the possibility of ancient life on the Red Planet.

“It appears like our first rocks show a potentially habitable sustained environmental,” Ken Farley, mission scientist, said in a Friday statement. It’s significant that water has been there for so long.

Six-wheeled robot “Montdenier”, September 6; second “Montagnac” September 8.

The samples are slightly larger than a pencil in size and approximately six centimeters in length. They are now kept in sealed tubes inside the rover’s inner.

A first attempt at collecting a sample in early August failed after the rock proved too crumbly to withstand Perseverance’s drill.

The Jezero Crater is a region where the rover was operating. It’s located north of the Equator. This area contains a lake that formed 3.5 billion years ago. Back then, Mars was much more warm and wetter.

The first samples of rock were found to be basaltic in composition, likely the result of lava flows.

Crystalline minerals found in volcanic rocks are useful for radiometric dating.

Scientists could use this information to help them build a picture about the area’s geological past, including when the crater was formed, when the lake appeared or disappeared, and how the climate has changed over time.

“An interesting thing about these rocks as well is that they show signs for sustained interaction with groundwater,” NASA geologist Katie Stack Morgan told a press conference.

Although scientists knew that the crater contained a lake, they couldn’t rule it out as a possibility. Floodwaters could have filled the crater with floodwaters for up to 50 years.

They are now more certain that groundwater has been present for a longer time.

Stack Morgan said that if these rocks were exposed to water for a long time, they may have habitable niches in them that could have been inhabited by ancient microbial life.

Salt minerals found in rock cores could have trapped small bubbles of Martian water.

“Salts are excellent minerals for preserving signs and evidence of ancient life on Earth. We expect the same to be true for rocks from Mars,” said Stack Morgan.

NASA hopes to return the samples to Earth to conduct lab analysis. This will be done in a joint mission between the European Space Agency and NASA sometime in 2030.

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