According to the researchers, the water was present in the Jezero crater long enough to make the area favorable for at least microbial life.
NASA has revealed the first results of the analysis of two rock samples taken by the Perseverance rover earlier in September. The first samples of volcanic rocks collected in the Jezero crater have preserved traces of a long stay at the bottom of the ancient lake.
Perseverance finds traces of contact with water in Martian samples: Everything you need to know
One of the tasks of the Perseverance rover is to collect mineral samples from the surface of the Red Planet. The device must place them in sealed capsules and prepare for the visit of the next spacecraft, which will deliver Martian samples to Earth for the first time for comprehensive study.
The first attempt to obtain a sample ended in failure: as it turned out, the stone, called Roubion, was too fragile and crumbled during the drilling process. The subsequent attempts turned out to be successful. The first sample that was studied officially, named Montdenier, was collected on September 6, and the second, named Montagnac, was obtained on September 8, from the same rock.
The mission’s scientific team has already analyzed these samples. The results indicate that in ancient times, the rock from which the samples were taken was in contact with liquid water for a long period of time. In addition, it itself was formed, probably as a result of volcanic activity.
In their composition, inclusions of salts were found, which indicates a long-term interaction of the volcanic rock with water. It is believed that in the distant past, the Jezero crater was a lake, and water, together with substances dissolved in it, could penetrate into the pores of minerals. Many years later, after the lake dried up, the water gradually evaporated from the stones, leaving salt inclusions.
Ancient Martian water
Scientists speculate that the salt minerals in the first two samples may even have retained tiny droplets of ancient Martian water. If further analysis succeeds in detecting them, they will serve as microscopic “time capsules” and help uncover the secrets of the ancient climate of Mars and its potential habitability in the past.
Salt minerals on Earth
Mission members emphasize that similar salt minerals are widespread on Earth. They are well known for their ability to retain signs of ancient life on our planet. Perhaps this mechanism works on Mars as well.
Contact with water
At the same time, the calculations do not yet give an exact answer to the question of how long the water has been in contact with the rocks. Perhaps it was tens of thousands of years, and maybe millions of years. But in any case, according to the researchers, the water was present there long enough to make the area favorable for at least microbial life.
The wait continues
In approximately ten years, when the Martian samples are delivered to Earth, they can be studied in more detail and comprehensively, tracing the entire history of the lost Martian lake. Unfortunately, we would have to wait until then for the major life-changing discoveries.
Where will the Martian samples be stored?
Perseverance will have to create multiple depots on Mars, where samples will be accumulated. There they will be taken from the next mission. A special rover will collect the containers and then transport them to a return rocket. Through it, the samples will fly to orbit around Mars and after docking with an orbital module, they will begin their journey to Earth.
Next target area
For now, the Perseverance team can’t wait to collect more Martian samples, with the next target being a cliff 200 meters from Perseverance in the South Séítah area. But scientists will have to wait. In October, the position of the Red Planet behind the Sun will interfere with all scientific efforts. The radio communication with all working missions on Mars will be suspended for a few weeks.
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• Bressan, D. (2021, September 13). Rock sampled By nasa’s Perseverance ROVER Reveals Mars’ ancient past. Forbes.
• Margetta, R. (2021, September 10). NASA’s perseverance Rover COLLECTS puzzle pieces of MARS’ HISTORY. NASA.
• NASA. (2021, September 10). NASA’s perseverance Rover COLLECTS puzzle pieces of MARS’ history – NASA’s Mars exploration program.
• Witze, A. (2021, September 7). Success! Mars ROVER finally collects its first rock core. Nature News.