Mars Perseverance rover collects organic-rich samples from Jezero Crater

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NASA said its The Mars Perseverance rover collected rock core samples from an area long considered by scientists to be a prime candidate for finding signs of ancient microbial life.

In an update, the team said its latest findings provide more detail about the area, with the rover taking four samples from an ancient river delta in the 28-mile-wide Jezero Crater since July.

In total, the rover collected 12 compelling rock samples.

The crater delta was formed about 3.5 billion years ago at the convergence of a Martian river and a lake.

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The sedimentary rocks of the delta formed when particles of different sizes were deposited in the environment.

NASA’s Perseverance rover puts its robotic arm to work around a rocky outcrop called “Skinner Ridge” in Mars’ Jezero Crater. Composed of multiple images, this mosaic shows layered sedimentary rock facing a cliff in the delta, as well as one of the places where the rover abraded a circular plate to analyze the composition of a rock.
(Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.)

During its first scientific campaign, the rover explored the bottom of the crater, finding igneous rock.

“We chose the Jezero Crater for Perseverance to explore because we thought it had the best chance of providing scientifically excellent samples – and now we know we sent the rover to the right place,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science in Washington. in a report. “These first two scientific campaigns produced an incredible diversity of samples to be brought back to Earth by the Mars Sample Return campaign.”

“The delta, with its various sedimentary rocks, contrasts beautifully with the igneous rocks – formed by the crystallization of magma – discovered on the bottom of the crater“Said Perseverance project scientist Ken Farley. “This juxtaposition provides us with a rich understanding of the geologic history after crater formation and a diverse sample suite. For example, we found a sandstone that carries grains and rock fragments created far from Jezero Crater – and a mudstone that includes intriguing organic compounds.”

NASA's Perseverance rover collected rock samples for possible return to Earth in the future from two locations seen in this image of Mars' Jezero Crater:

NASA’s Perseverance rover collected rock samples for possible return to Earth in the future from two locations seen in this image of Mars’ Jezero crater: “Wildcat Ridge” (bottom left) and “Skinner Ridge” (top right).
(Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS.)

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One of these rocks is “Wildcat Ridge”, which probably formed billions of years ago.

Perseverance abraded part of the rock surface so that it could analyze the area with its Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC) instrument.

NASA said the SHERLOC samples were found to exhibit a class of organic molecules that are spatially correlated with those of sulfate minerals.

Composed of multiple images from NASA's Perseverance Mars rover, this mosaic shows a rocky outcrop called

Comprised of multiple images from NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, this mosaic shows a rocky outcrop called “Wildcat Ridge,” where the rover extracted two rock cores and abraded a circular patch to study the rock’s composition.
(Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS.)

The presence of organic molecules, which may contain elements like sulfur, is considered a potential biosignature.

While the Perseverance and Curiosity Mars rovers have found evidence or organic material before, this detection was made in an area where sediment and salts were deposited in a lake under conditions in which life could potentially have existed.

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“In the distant past, the sand, mud and salts that now make up the Wildcat Ridge sample were deposited in conditions where life could have thrived,” Farley explained. “The fact that organic matter was found in such sedimentary rock – known to preserve fossils of ancient life here on Earth – is significant. However, as capable as our instruments aboard Perseverance are, other conclusions regarding what is contained in the Wildcat Ridge sample will have to await its return to Earth for further study as part of the agency’s Mars Sample Return campaign.”

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