• Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
  • Last Update : 05:54 pm

Mars rocks collected by Nasa's Perseverance boost case for ancient life

  • Published at 09:09 pm September 11th, 2021
Mars_Perseverance_AFP
This Nasa photo obtained May 2, 2021 shows Nasa's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter viewed by one of the hazard cameras aboard the Perseverance rover during the helicopter's fourth flight on April 30, 2021AFP

The rover has been operating in a region known as the Jezero Crater, just north of the equator and home to a lake 3.5 billion years ago

Nasa's Perseverance Mars rover has now collected two rock samples, with signs that they were in contact with water for a long period of time boosting the case for ancient 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 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.

Both samples, slightly wider than a pencil in diameter and about six centimeters long, are now stored in sealed tubes in the rover's interior.

A first attempt at collecting a sample in early August failed after the rock proved too crumbly to withstand Perseverance's drill.

The rover has been operating in a region known as the Jezero Crater, just north of the equator and home to a lake 3.5 billion years ago, when conditions on Mars were much warmer and wetter than today.

The rock that provided the first samples was found to be basaltic in composition and likely the product of lava flows.

Volcanic rocks contain crystalline minerals that are helpful in radiometric dating. 

This in turn could help scientists build up a picture of the area's geological history, such as when the crater formed, when the lake appeared and disappeared, and how climate changed over 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 scientists already knew the crater was home to a lake, but couldn't rule out the possibility that it had been a "flash in the pan" with floodwaters filling up the crater for as little as 50 years.

Now they are more certain groundwater was present for much 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 may have trapped tiny bubbles of ancient 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 hoping to return the samples to Earth for in depth lab analysis in a joint mission with the European Space Agency sometime in the 2030s.


51
Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail