Water-altered rocks discovered on Mars will be stored for return to Earth in 2033

A team of scientists from NASA’s Perseverance mission has collected the first samples of water-altered Martian rocks that could be brought back to Earth, providing a first step toward learning whether the Red Planet ever hosted life. Rock specimens Come from the floor of Jezero Crater, It was chosen as a study site because it has a large river delta Flowed into a pristine lake.

Scientists believe that an aquatic Mars could have supported life billions of years ago. “These kinds of environments Earth is a place where life thrives. “The purpose of exploring the Jesero Delta and Crater is to look for rocks that contain evidence of ancient life in these once-habitable environments,” explains Amy Williams, an astronomer and professor of geology at the University of Florida. NASA’s diligent mission range will allow planners and the rover to decide where to send the rover and what tests and samples to prioritize. helps.

Rover explores river delta to collect More rock samples for the Mars sample return mission. Led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Perseverance touched down at the bottom of Jezero Crater in February 2021. Since then, scientists have used a suite of instruments on board the spacecraft to study the geological structure of the crater floor. See the chemical composition of rocks, as well as their structure underground.

The scientific team discovered The crater floor is more eroded than expected. Erosion revealed a crater made up of rocks formed by lava and magma called igneous rocks. Scientists originally expected sedimentary rocks from lakes or deltas to lie on top of these volcanic rocks. It is possible Soft sedimentary rocks They wear away over centuries, leaving behind highly resistant rocks.

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Rocks that scientists have analyzed and stored back on Earth have been replaced by water, further evidence of an aquatic past on Mars. “We have organisms living in very similar rock types on Earth,” Williams recalled. “And the hydrological transformation of minerals has the potential to record biosignatures.”

NASA and the European Space Agency plan to return rock samples to Earth by 2033. Ambitious plan Construction of the first vehicle is required It could launch from the surface of Mars and rendezvous with an orbiter that would carry samples back to Earth.

The reward for this mission will be far more detailed studies of rock samples than could be carried out on the rover. These studies include measuring the age of rocks and looking for signs of ancient life. Because rock samples taken from the bottom of the crater may predate the river delta, dating these rocks will provide important information about the age of the lake. “I’m excited about what’s next,” Williams says.

Eden Hayes

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