NASA’s Perseverance rover is exploring Mars and solving a crucial mystery soon after its arrival. He didn’t even initiate it.
Frankfurt/Pasadena – NASA’s “Persevering” rover faces major missions on the surface of Mars. Among other things, it must search for signs of early microbial life on the Red Planet and research the geology and past climate of Mars. The rover has already answered an important question with the first images it has sent back to Earth, NASA has now announced. Recordings and accompanying study have been published in science magazine.
“This is the main observation that assures us once and for all that there was a lake and river delta in Jezero crater,” said scientist Nicholas Mangold, the study’s lead author, in a message from NASA. Today, Jezero crater, where Perseverance landed in February 2021, is very dry. But once the water was there, experts deduced from the Martian rover’s recordings. So Jezero crater 3.7 billion years ago was a lake fed by a small river.
NASA spacecraft revealed that Jezero Crater on Mars was a lake connected to a river
The recordings also show experts that the lake must have been flooded. According to the Mangold researchers in their study, these floods carried large stones for kilometers along the river and deposited them in the lake where they are still found today.
It is no coincidence that “perseverance” hits the bull’s-eye shortly after its arrival. The landing site at Jezero crater was chosen by NASA experts on suspicion that water once flowed there. Recordings from Mars orbiters previously showed that Jezero crater looks like a dry lake connected to a river delta. “The rover has solved one of the biggest mysteries without going anywhere,” says planetary scientist Benjamin Weiss. “Until we got there, the question was always: Was the crater ever a lake?”
NASA’s ‘Persevere’ rover: No accidental disclosure
Mars experts believe that water on the surface of the Red Planet once existed, but it dried up about 3.5 billion years ago. At that time, according to the current state of research, Mars lost its magnetic field and gradually lost its atmosphere. Another theory suggests that Mars was too small to hold water permanently.
NASA’s plan: Rover “perseverance” is to visit the former river delta
Meanwhile, the “Persevering” rover has covered about 2.6 kilometers into Jezero crater, and if all goes according to plan, it will also map the rocks it has captured from a distance to solve the mystery of the lake up close. The rover is scheduled to head to the former river delta to take soil samples there.
Experts believe that sediment from the former lake may contain traces of previous life in the water. Therefore, the “perseverance” should also collect such samples. “Now we have the opportunity to look for fossils,” explains Tanya Bosak of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
NASA’s “Perseverance” rover: Soil samples will be sent from Mars to Earth
Soil samples collected by Perseverance will be stored by the rover on the surface of Mars, and a future mission will return the samples from Mars to Earth, where they can be directly examined by scientists. “It will take some time to get the stones in which we hope to find traces of life. It is a marathon with great potential,” Boussac continued.
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Until then, however, the research must rely on “perseverance” and NASA’s older rover Curiosity, which is conducting research in a different region on Mars. “A better understanding of Jezero crater is key to understanding the area’s changing hydrology,” perseverance scientist Sanjeev Gupta said in a NASA statement. “This could provide valuable insights into why the entire planet is drying up.”
Weiss has another hope: It is possible to find the time in the rock when the crater “passed from a habitable Earth-like environment to this devastated wasteland,” he explains. “These ruin beds could be recordings of this transition. We haven’t seen this elsewhere on Mars.” (tab)
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