NASA’s Perseverance Begins Its Hunt for Life on Mars in Earnest

NASA’s Perseverance Begins Its Hunt for Life on Mars in Earnest

The time has finally come. The Perseverance Mars rover is poised to begin researching its primary location: the delta of an ancient river that flowed into Jezero Crater billions of years ago. Water-carved features on Mars are viewed as a good area for the search for ancient life on Mars, given how important water is to life on Earth. Within the next several sols, the rover will arrive at its first destination, Devil’s Tanyard. On Mars, a “sol” is a solar day that lasts roughly 40 minutes longer than an Earth day. The rest station is located within the delta front, near the Hawksbill Gap.

After Devils Tanyard, the crew hopes to make four more stops before reaching Rocky Top, another interesting spot. This hike will take the rover across several rock strata that correlate to various eras of the creation of these old geological structures. “After we finish the first half of our walkabout, we’ll descend to three of our favorite places to sample.” 

“With these three sample pairs, the Perseverance team hopes to add to our Martian collectables a set of fine-grained clay-bearing mudstones that are good candidates for preserving organics and potential ancient microbes, as well as coarser-grained sandstones to investigate material washed down from beyond Jezero and to constrain the timing of past lake activity,” wrote Brad Garczynski, a Purdue University student collaborator on the Perseverance team.

The fan-shaped delta that Perseverance is going to investigate is around 45 kilometers (28 miles) wide in Jezero Crater. Clays created when water was still running abound in the area, and the crater has been completely filled with sediments. “With each drive and sample, the crew learns more about this once-watery crater and pieces together the tale inscribed in the Martian rocks,” added Garczynski.

Perseverance is equipped with a variety of equipment for studying materials on Mars, but it is also collecting samples that will be transported to Earth sometime in the next decade for further analysis. NASA and the European Space Agency will collaborate on the sample return mission. Perseverance has already gathered a few samples, which will be kept secure and sealed until they can be blasted back to Earth from the Martian surface.