The data from the analyzes sent by NASA’s ‘Perseverance ‘ rover from the surface of Mars allow us to hope that the mission will accomplish its objective: to find clues that the red planet once had life. The first rock points to a past habitable environment . “It appears that our first rocks reveal a potentially habitable sustained environment,” Ken Farley of Caltech, a project scientist for the mission, which is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. “It’s a great thing that the water has been there for a long time.”
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The rock that provided the first samples for the mission is basaltic in composition and may be the product of lava flows. The rock’s volcanic origin could help scientists accurately date when it formed.
Each sample can serve as part of a larger chronological puzzle: placed in the correct order they will give scientists a timeline of the most important events in the history of Jezero Crater. Some of those events include the formation of the crater, the appearance and disappearance of Lake Jezero, and changes in the planet’s climate in the ancient past.
What’s more, salts have been detected within these rocks. These salts may have formed when groundwater flowed in and altered the original minerals in the rock, or more likely when liquid water evaporated, leaving the salts behind. The salt minerals in these first two rock cores may have also trapped tiny bubbles of ancient Martian water. If present, they could serve as microscopic time capsules, offering clues about the ancient climate and habitability of Mars. Salt minerals are also well known on Earth for their ability to preserve signs of ancient life.
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This groundwater could have been related to the lake that was once in Jezero, or it could have traveled through the rocks long after the lake had dried up. Scientists have little doubt that the water was there long enough to make the area more welcoming to microscopic life in the past. “These samples are of great value for future laboratory analysis on Earth,” said Mitch Schulte of NASA Headquarters, a mission program scientist.
“One day, we may be able to determine the sequence and timing of the environmental conditions that the minerals in this rock represent. This will help answer the general scientific question about the history and stability of liquid water on Mars.