Water-altered rocks discovered on Mars have been discovered and stored for return to Earth in 2033

A team of scientists from NASA’s Perseverance mission have collected the first samples of water-altered Martian rocks that can be transported to Earth, providing the first step toward finding out whether or not the Red Planet harbors life. rock samples It comes from the floor of Jezero crater, It was chosen as a place to study because it has a large river delta that was in its day It flowed into an ancient lake.

Scientists believe that watery Mars could have supported life billions of years ago. “These kinds of environments in Earth is where life thrives. The goal of the Jezero delta and crater exploration is to search these once-inhabited environments for rocks that may contain evidence of ancient life,” explains astrobiologist and geology professor at the University of Florida (US) Amy Williams, one of the longtime planners. scope for NASA’s Perseverance mission and help determine where to send the rover and which tests and samples to prioritize.

The rover explores the river delta to collect it More rock samples for the Mars sample return mission. Led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Perseverance touched down at the bottom of the Jezero Crater in February 2021. Since then, scientists have explored the geological makeup of the crater’s floor using an array of instruments aboard the spacecraft. The chemical composition of the rocks, as well as seeing their underground structure.

The science team discovered it The pit floor eroded more than expected. Erosion revealed a crater made of rocks formed from lava and magma, known as igneous rocks. Scientists originally expected that sedimentary rocks from lakes or deltas would lie on top of these igneous rocks. It might be a file Softer sedimentary rocks They will erode over the centuries, leaving the most resistant igneous rocks behind.

The rocks that scientists analyzed and stored have been altered to return to Earth by water, further evidence of a watery past on Mars. “We have organisms on Earth that live in very similar rock types,” Williams recalls. “A water change of minerals has the potential to record biosignatures.”

NASA and the European Space Agency plan to return rock samples to Earth around 2033. The ambitious plan Requires building the first car It could launch from the surface of Mars and meet with an orbiter that will transport samples back to Earth.

The reward for this task will be very detailed studies of rock samples that cannot be performed on the rover. These studies include measuring the age of rocks and looking for signs of ancient life. Because rock samples from the bottom of the crater probably predate the river delta, dating these rocks will provide important information about the age of the lake. “I’m excited about what’s coming next,” Williams says.

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