NASA: Mars rover rocks reveal “potentially habitable supported environment”

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NASA’s Perseverance rover collected its first two Martian rock cores on “Rochette”, the rock near the center of the image.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

This story is part of Welcome to mars, our series exploring the red planet.

Nasa had high hopes for the Jezero crater on Mars and what it could tell us about the potential for past life on the Red Planet. The rover’s first Perseverance rock core samples from this now dry lake bed give scientists plenty of reason to be excited.

“It seems that our first rocks reveal a potentially habitable supported environment”, Project Perseverance scientist Ken Farley of Caltech said in a NASA statement Friday. “It’s a big deal that the water has been around for a long time.” The researchers studied how long the water had lingered on the lake bed. If groundwater were present for long periods of time, it could have been conducive to microbial life.

After his the first sample collection attempt collapsed, Perseverance triumphed by successfully drilling and hiding his first carrot of another rock nicknamed “Rochette”. He then followed up with a second sample. Analysis shows that Rochette appears to be of volcanic origin.

NASA has spotted other potentially habitable ancient regions on Mars, but the prospect of bringing a piece of them back to Earth is one of the major advancements of the Perseverance mission.

The samples could end up on Earth as early as the early 2030s. NASA is working on a ambitious sample return mission. Further study under laboratory conditions on our planet could give scientists tons of information about the history of the crater.

The Perseverance team spotted salts at Rochette that probably formed when the water evaporated. “The salt minerals in those first two rock cores may also have trapped tiny bubbles of ancient Martian water,” NASA said. “If present, they could serve as microscopic time capsules, offering clues to the ancient climate and habitability of Mars.”

NASA’s latest rover is looking for signs of ancient microbial life on the Red Planet. These early results from his rock studies are an encouraging sign that Jezero Crater is the perfect place to explore to help answer the big question: Has there ever been life on Mars?

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