Analysis of the first rock from which the rover took off determination NASA in Mars She got her first samples – for future transfer to Earth – indicating a past habitable environment.
“Our first rocks appear to reveal a sustainable, potentially habitable environment,” Caltech’s Ken Farley of the California Institute of Technology, the mission project scientist, which is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. “It’s great that water has been around for so long.”
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The rocks that provided the first samples for the mission are basaltic in composition and may have been the product of lava flows. The presence of crystalline minerals in igneous rocks is particularly useful for radioactive dating. The origin of igneous rocks can help scientists determine the exact date of their formation.
Each sample could be part of a larger chronological puzzle: Placed in the correct order, they will give scientists a timeline of the most important events in Jezero Crater’s history. Some of these events include crater formation, the appearance and disappearance of Lake Jezero, and changes in the planet’s climate in the ancient past.
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Furthermore, salts have been discovered within these rocks. These salts may have formed when groundwater flowed and the original minerals in the rock changed, or more likely when liquid water evaporated, leaving the salts behind. Salt minerals in the first two rocky cores may also have trapped tiny bubbles of ancient Martian water.
If present, they could serve as microscopic time capsules, providing clues to the ancient climate and habitability of Mars. Salt minerals are also known on Earth for their ability to preserve signs of ancient life.
Underground water has been for a long time
The persistence science team already knew that the lake once filled the hole; But knowing how long it was is uncertain. Scientists couldn’t rule out the possibility that Lake Jezero was floodwater that would have quickly filled the impact crater and dry up within 50 years, for example.
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But the level of change that scientists see in the rock that provided the core samples, as well as the rocks the team targeted in their first sample attempt, indicate that groundwater has been around for a long time.
This groundwater could be related to the lake that was once in Jezero, or it may have moved through the rocks long after the lake dried up. Although scientists can’t yet determine whether the water that disturbed these rocks existed tens of thousands or millions of years ago, they are more confident that it’s been around long enough to make the area more welcoming to microscopic life in the past.
“These samples are of great value for future laboratory analysis on Earth,” said Mitch Schulte of NASA Headquarters, a scientist in the missions program. “One day, we may be able to determine the sequence and timing of the environmental conditions represented by the minerals in this rock. This will help answer the general scientific question about the history and stability of liquid water on Mars.”
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Perseverance searches the floor of the crater for samples that can be brought back to Earth to answer deep questions about the history of Mars. Promising samples are sealed in titanium tubes that the rover carries in its hull, where it will be stored until Perseverance drops it for retrieval on a future mission. Perseverance will likely create multiple “repositories” later in the mission, where you’ll leave samples for a future mission that you’ll bring back to Earth. The presence of one or more sediments increases the likelihood that samples will be particularly valuable for recovery on Earth.
The next potential sample site for persistence is just 200 meters away in “South Cittah,” a ridge covered with dunes, boulders and rock fragments that Farley likens to “broken plates.”
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The rover’s last drill sample represents what is likely one of the smallest layers of rock that can be found on the floor of Jezero crater. On the other hand, South Séítah is likely to be older and will provide the science team with a better timeline for understanding the events that shaped the crater floor, including its lake.
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