WASHINGTON – NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has now collected two rock samples, with indicators that they had been in touch with water for a protracted time period boosting the case for historical life on the Pink Planet.
“It appears to be like like our first rocks reveal a probably liveable sustained atmosphere,” mentioned Ken Farley, venture scientist for the mission, in a press release on Saturday. “It’s an enormous deal that the water was there for a very long time.” The six-wheeled robotic collected its first pattern, dubbed “Montdenier” on September 6, and its second, “Montagnac” from the identical rock on September 8. Each samples, barely wider than a pencil in diameter and about six centimeters lengthy, are actually saved in sealed tubes within the rover’s inside. A primary try at accumulating a pattern in early August failed after the rock proved too crumbly to face up to Perseverance’s drill.
The rover has been working in a area referred to as the Jezero Crater, simply north of the equator and residential to a lake 3.5 billion years in the past, when circumstances on Mars had been a lot hotter and wetter than at the moment. The rock that supplied the primary samples was discovered to be basaltic in composition and sure the product of lava flows. Volcanic rocks comprise crystalline minerals which can be useful in radiometric relationship. This in flip may assist scientists construct up an image of the world’s geological historical past, comparable to when the crater fashioned, when the lake appeared and disappeared, and the way local weather modified over time. “An fascinating factor about these rocks as properly is that they present indicators for sustained interplay with groundwater,” NASA geologist Katie Stack Morgan instructed a press convention. The scientists already knew the crater was house to a lake, however couldn’t rule out the chance that it had been a “flash within the pan” with floodwaters filling up the crater for as little as 50 years. Now they’re extra sure groundwater was current for for much longer. “If these rocks skilled water for lengthy durations of time, there could also be liveable niches inside these rocks that might have supported historical microbial life,” added Stack Morgan. The salt minerals within the rock cores might have trapped tiny bubbles of historical Martian water. “Salts are nice minerals for preserving indicators of historical life right here on Earth, and we anticipate the identical could also be true for rocks on Mars,” added Stack Morgan. NASA is hoping to return the samples to Earth for in depth lab evaluation in a joint mission with the European Area Company someday within the 2030s.