The rock sampled by NASA’s Perseverance embodies why the rover came to Mars| Trending Viral hub

The 24th sample taken by the six-wheeled scientist offers new clues about Jezero Crater and the lake it may once have housed.

Analysis by instruments aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover indicates that the last rock core taken by the rover was awash in water for an extended period of time in the distant past, perhaps as part of an ancient Martian beach. Collected on March 11, the sample is from the rover. 24 – a count that includes 21 sample tubes filled with rock cores, two filled with regolith (broken rock and dust) and one with a Martian atmosphere.

“Simply put, this is the type of rock we expected to find when we decided to investigate Jezero Crater,” said Ken Farley, Perseverance project scientist at Caltech in Pasadena, California. “Almost all of the minerals in the rock we just sampled were formed in water; On Earth, minerals deposited in water are often good at trapping and preserving ancient organic material and biosignatures. “The rock can even tell us about the climatic conditions on Mars that were present when it formed.”

The presence of these specific minerals is considered promising for preserving a rich record of an ancient habitable environment on Mars. These mineral collections are important in guiding scientists to the most valuable samples for eventual return to Earth with the Mars Sample Return campaign.

The rock, nicknamed “Bunsen Peak” after the Yellowstone National Park landmark, measures approximately 5.6 feet wide and 3.3 feet high (1.7 meters by 1 meter). intrigued Perseverance scientists because the outcrop stands out in the middle of the surrounding terrain and has an interesting texture on one of its faces. They were also interested in the vertical rock face of Bunsen Peak, which offers a good cross section of the rock and, because it is not flat, has less dust and is therefore easier for scientific instruments to investigate. .

Meet the 24th Martian sample collected by NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover: “Comet Geyser,” a sample taken from a region of Jezero Crater that is especially rich in carbonate, a mineral linked to habitability.

Before taking the sample, Perseverance scanned the rock using the explorer Super camera Spectrometers and X-ray spectrometer. PIXL, short for Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry. The rover then used the rotor at the end of its robotic arm to grind (or abrade) a portion of the surface and scanned the rock again. The results: Bunsen Peak appears to be composed of about 75% carbonate grains cemented together by nearly pure silica.

“The silica and parts of the carbonate appear microcrystalline, making them extremely good at trapping and preserving signs of microbial life that may have once lived in this environment,” said Sandra Siljeström, a Perseverance scientist at the Swedish Research Institutes ( RISE). in Stockholm. “That makes this sample excellent for biosignature studies if it is returned to Earth. Additionally, the sample could be one of the oldest cores collected so far by Perseverance, and that’s important because Mars was at its most habitable early in its history.” A potential biosignature is a substance or structure that could be evidence of past life but may also have occurred without the presence of life.

The Bunsen Peak sample is the third that Perseverance has collected while exploring the “Margin Unit,” a geological area that hugs the inner edge of Jezero Crater’s rim.

“We’re still exploring the margin and collecting data, but the results so far may support our hypothesis that the rocks here formed along the shores of an ancient lake,” said Briony Horgan, Perseverance scientist at Purdue University. in West Lafayette, Indiana. . “The science team is also considering other ideas for the origin of the Margin Unit, as there are other ways to form carbonate and silica. But no matter how this rock was formed, it’s really exciting to get a sample.”

The rover is heading towards the westernmost part of the Marginal Unit. At the base of Jezero Crater’s rim, a location nicknamed “Bright Angel” is of interest to the science team because it may offer the first encounter with the much older rocks that form the crater’s rim. Once it finishes exploring Bright Angel, Perseverance will begin a multi-month climb to the top of the rim.

A key objective for the Perseverance mission to Mars is astrobiology, including caching samples that may contain signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s past geology and climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and store Martian rocks and regolith.

Later NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Perseverance Mars 2020 mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Sagebrush Missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managed by Caltech for the agency, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

For more information on perseverance:

https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

DC Eagle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
818-393-9011
agle@jpl.nasa.gov

Karen Fox/Charles Blue
NASA Headquarters, Washington
301-286-6284 / 202-802-5345
karen.c.fox@nasa.gov / charles.e.blue@nasa.gov

2024-036

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