NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has now gathered two rock samples with signs that they were in touch with water for a significant stretch of time, boosting the case for antiquated life on the Red Planet.
“It looks like our first rocks reveal a potentially habitable sustained environment,” said Ken Farley, project scientist for the mission, in a statement on Friday.
“It’s a big deal that the water was there for a long time.” The six-wheeled robot collected its first sample, dubbed “Montdenier” on September 6, and its second, “Montagnac” from the same rock on September 8.
The two samples, marginally more extensive than a pencil in diameter and around six centimeters in length, are presently stored in sealed tubes in the rover’s interior.
A first effort to gather a sample toward the beginning of August failed after the rock demonstrated too brittle to even think about withstanding Perseverance’s drill.
The rover has been working in a region known as the Jezero Crater, only north of the equator and home to a lake 3.5 billion years prior, when conditions on Mars were a lot hotter and wetter than today.
The rock that gave the first samples was observed to be basaltic in composition and reasonable the product of lava flows.
Volcanic rocks contain crystalline minerals that are useful in radiometric dating.
This thusly could assist researchers with developing an image of the area’s geological history, like when the crater formed, when the lake showed up and disappeared, and how climate changed after some 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.
The researchers definitely realized the crater was home to a lake, yet couldn’t preclude the likelihood that it had been a “flash in the pan” with floodwaters topping off the crater for just 50 years. Presently they are more sure groundwater was available for any longer.
“If these rocks experienced water for long periods of time, there may be habitable niches within these rocks that could have supported ancient microbial life,” added Stack Morgan.
The salt minerals in the rock cores might have caught minuscule bubbles of antiquated Martian water.
“Salts are great minerals for preserving signs of ancient life here on Earth, and we expect the same may be true for rocks on Mars,” added Stack Morgan.
NASA is wanting to return the samples to Earth for in-depth lab analysis in a joint mission with the European Space Agency at some point during the 2030s.
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