Home Science NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover digs up clues in the hunt for life

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover digs up clues in the hunt for life

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At the bottom of a shallow crater on Mars, NASA Rover Perseverance What scientists want is paycheck dirt. Mars rocks unearthed by the rover show signs of a watery past and contain organic molecules that seem to be the foundation of life as we know it.

Scientists working on the mission also say the rock samples the rover stored in tubes for future return to Earth have the right chemical recipes. Preserve evidence of ancient Mars life, if it exists.

The new Perseverance study is detailed in three large studies released Wednesday.of Journal reports are highly professional, hype-free, and daringly trivial, but the scientists involved translate them into more exciting stories.

“It’s amazing. We’ve found organic matter in almost every rock,” said Abigail Allwood, a geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

One study concluded that the rocks within the crater underwent three different water exposure events.

“Critically, the rock conditions could have supported a small microbial community whenever water moved through the rock,” says lead author and professor of geology at Texas A&M University. Scholar Michael Tice said in an email. In a subsequent interview, he added, “We won’t know until we bring the sample back to Earth.”

On February 18, 2021, NASA successfully landed the Perseverance rover on Mars. Click here for a live video of the landing. (Video: NASA, Photo: NASA/NASA)

Patience Bulls Island Landing It moved to Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021 and has been roaming ever since, caching rock samples along the way to return to Earth later for scrutiny. It’s an ambitious, multi-stage mission that requires NASA and its partner, the European Space Agency, to send another vehicle to the surface of Mars with the ability to launch samples into orbit. A spacecraft then brings those samples back to Earth for laboratory research. An exact timetable has yet to be determined, but NASA hopes to have the sample on his home turf in the early 2030s.

This study of Mars is part of the efflorescence of Mars’ young field. space biologyThis includes exploring potentially habitable worlds and the first examples of extraterrestrial life. Despite the efforts of generations of scientists, and despite the claims of his UFO enthusiasts, the discovery of extraterrestrial life remains ambitious.

Even finding organic matter (life-friendly molecules with combinations of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen) is far from discovering life or proving its existence in the past. can be of either natural or non-biological origin.

Still, Mars has many favorable features that keep it at the forefront of NASA’s search. Mars was probably much more Earth-like, warmer and wetter, about 3 billion years ago. Life may have once existed on Earth and Mars at the same time, and may have originated on Mars and spread to Earth via meteorites. Although the surface is now a dry wasteland, there may be significant amounts of liquid water beneath the surface. Perhaps a “mysterious” life.

Although the Perseverance rover doesn’t have the instruments to chemically detect living organisms currently in existence, its instruments will allow scientists to study the surface of Mars at a level of detail never before possible.

One of the new papers looking more closely at Mars’ chemistry has surprised geologists. They thought they were going to dig up a ton of sedimentary rock. Instead, rocks are volcanoes.

Jezero Crater was formed in a rock impact event that hit Mars at least 3.5 billion years ago. The shallow crater apparently had water long ago. This can be determined from orbital images showing the remnants of the delta where the river drained into the lake. Planetary geologists believed that the bottom of the crater was covered with sedimentary rock, which was slowly accumulating at the bottom of the lake.

If such sedimentary rocks were once there, they are gone now. It may have been eroded, Tice said. The lack of sedimentary rocks could mean the lake didn’t last very long, which would be disappointing for astrobiologists. Life takes time to evolve. If the lake hadn’t survived, life might have struggled to take root.

However, volcanic rocks do not disappoint, as they store a lot of information about Mars’ past, including the presence of organic molecules. , whose exact nature and chemistry cannot be discerned in long-range studies of this kind and would require laboratory scrutiny on Earth. Caltech and co-author of two new papers.

“Are they just organic matter that seems to have been washed into the system? Perhaps from meteorite material that was part of the water? That would be the least exciting. Or microbes living in these rock cavities. A small niche in your life? That would be the most exciting thing,” says Ehlmann.

She said the rover “is collecting an impressive set of samples to illuminate the history of Mars’ environment in all its forms, including the history of volcanoes, the history of water, and the relationship between organic matter and water-rich environments.” ‘ added.

These are all attempts to solve the fundamental mysteries of Mars. What was the problem? When and how did this seemingly friendly planet turn into such a hostile place? Mars may not be a dead planet — although the coroner’s report is incomplete — it certainly is.

Scientists point to what Mars lacks today: an Earth-like global magnetic field.Such fields protect Our atmosphere is made up of a steady stream of high-energy particles from the Sun that can strip lighter molecules from the corrosive effects of the solar wind. Plate tectonics is the geological process that continues to recycle the Earth’s crust and erupt water and nutrient-rich lava from active volcanoes.

On the way, the magnetic field of Mars disappears, It has become a different kind of planet. Lost almost all of the atmosphere. It became a world of frigid deserts. Not sure how fast it happened However, it may be revealed by the volcanic rocks in the crater.

Magma contains iron that is sensitive to the planet’s magnetism. As lava cools, it crystallizes into igneous rock, where electrons within iron-bearing minerals freeze into patterns that reveal magnetic field features such as the direction of the field.

Benjamin Weiss, a planetary scientist at MIT and co-author of the two papers, said in an email. It is ideal for determining ages and studying the past history of Mars’ magnetic field. “

If the mission can send the precious rock collection back to Earth, scientists may finally be able to find out if life has found a foothold on Mars.

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