The Perseverance Rover has reached a major stage in its search for traces of life on Mars by taking the “most valuable” samples collected so far, which Contains potential bio-fingerprints that must be confirmed upon return to EarthNASA announced this Thursday.
until This is not evidence of life on the Red Planet But it’s the best chance yet of being able to detect possible ancient microbial life with certainty.
The biological signature may have been produced by the presence of life, But also by an inert process. To consider this biosignature definitive, samples must be analyzed by powerful laboratory instruments on Earth.
NASA plans to bring them back with another mission before 2033.
“I think we can say they will be, and they are indeed the most valuable rock samples ever collected,” he declared at a press conference. David Schustera scientist working on these samples.
Two pieces were dug into a rock called “Wildcat Mountain Range”, about one meter in size and located In a delta formed about 3.5 billion years ago At the junction between a river and an ancient lake.
It’s especially fun because it’s a file Sedimentary rocks Which appears to have formed the moment the lake water evaporated.
The “Wildcat Mountain Range” also has “great potential for bio-footprint preservation,” said Schuster, an expert at the University of California, Berkeley.
Scanned separately by an instrument at the end of the perseverance robotic arm, The rock revealed the presence of organic compounds – the largest amount detected since the mission began a year and a half ago. He declared that these compounds – made especially of carbon and which can contain hydrogen – “are the essential elements of life”. Ken Farleyresponsible for the scientific part of the expedition.
These were detected in much smaller quantities by the rover during previous analyzes at Jezero crater, which contained the lake, but “as we move into the delta, the indicators get stronger and stronger,” he summarized. Swanda SharmaFrom NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“I personally find these results very impressive, as we seem to be in the right place with the right machinery, at a pivotal moment,” he said.
“We don’t yet know the significance of these finds, but these rocks are exactly what we came for,” Farley concluded.
Other analyzes of the vehicle surprised the scientists. At the bottom of the crater, “igneous rocks” were found, that is, rocks that crystallized after melting.Farley announced. This finding indicates a Active volcanic activity He added that it is likely that the crater before the water reached it, “a lake of lava.”
Samples from these rocks and their subsequent analysis on Earth should allow the age of the Martian surface to be determined directly for the first time.
“It’s something that is only indirectly inferred today,” Farley explained.
A mission is planned in 2028 To retrieve these samples by means of a landing craft carrying a small capsule. The rover will move to the unit to place the samples there, which will then be transferred to a space-orbiting spacecraft, which will return to Earth and land in the Utah desert in 2033.
(With information from AFP)