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In just a year and a half on Mars, NASAThe Perseverance navigator absolutely rocked his mission. The agency held a briefing Thursday to discuss highlights from the scientific mission so far, and it was a celebration of the discovery of rock samples and organic matter.
Organic molecules at Wildcat Ridge
A rock called Wildcat Ridge, located in an ancient river delta area of Jezero Crater, was one of the stars of the show. Percy successfully collected two samples from the mudstone rock. Wildcat Ridge is particularly exciting because the organic molecules (called aromatics) found in it are considered a potential biological signature, which NASA describes as a substance or structure that could be evidence of past life, but could have been produced without the presence of life.
The traveling team stressed that finding organic matter does not mean they have found evidence of ancient life. Organic molecules have been detected on Mars before. Curiosity rover in Gale Crater and also by Perseverance, which carbon-containing molecules found previously on duty.
The rover’s Sherlock instrument examined the rock. (Sherloc stands for Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals.) “In the Wildcat Ridge analysis, the Sherloc instrument recorded the most abundant organic detection on the mission to date,” NASA said.
Scientists see familiar signs in their analysis of Wildcat Ridge. “In the distant past, the sand, mud, and salts that now make up the Wildcat Ridge example were deposited under conditions in which life could potentially flourish.” said Perseverance project scientist Ken Farley In a statement. “The fact that organic matter is found in such a sedimentary rock that is known to preserve fossils of ancient life on Earth is significant.”
Perseverance isn’t equipped to find conclusive evidence of ancient microbial life on the red planet. “The truth is, the burden of proof for establishing life on another planet is very, very high,” Farley said at the press conference. For this, we need to examine the Martian rocks closely and personally in the Earth laboratories.
Percy currently has 12 rock samples on board, including fragments of Wildcat Ridge and samples from another sedimentary delta rock called Skinner Ridge. It also collected samples of igneous rock earlier in the mission, which hinted at the impact of volcanic action in the crater long ago.
NASA is so pleased with the variety of samples collected that it is considering releasing some of the filled tubes to the surface soon in preparation for the future. Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign. MSR is an ambitious plan to send a lander to Mars, collect Percy’s samples, rocket them from the surface, and bring them back to Earth for close study. The mission is under development. If all goes as planned, these rocks could be here in 2033.
The complexity and importance of MSR means that NASA and its partners are working on ways to ensure samples are collected. Until the MSR lander arrives, it is hoped Perseverance will still be operating in good condition and be able to afford it and personally deliver samples. Leaving some samples on the ground in a cache area in the crater this early in the mission will give MSR another opportunity to get the precious rocks aboard.
Percy collects matched samples. For example, he can keep one Wildcat Ridge tube on board and drop the other on the ground. “We have weeks to implement fascinating examples of Perseverance and only a few years to bring them back to Earth so scientists can study them down to the last detail,” said NASA JPL Director Laurie Leshin. “We’re going to learn a lot.”
What’s next for Percy?
As exciting as Delta may be, the traveling team looks to future adventures beyond. Perseverance can navigate the crater rim with the team looking for several possible routes to climb. his friend ingenuity helicopter He is in good health and is expected to take off again.
NASA chose Jezero Crater for exploration because of its fascinating water history and how rocks there could preserve evidence of ancient life if it existed on Mars in more habitable times. Sherlock scientist Sunanda Sharma likened the mission to a treasure hunt for organic life on another planet, saying the samples containing the aromatic were a clue. The Mars mystery is only just beginning to emerge.
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