What has NASA’s Perseverance rover discovered on Mars?
NASA’s Mars rover has come across fine-grained rocks on the Red Planet, which have the best chance at preserving evidence of life according to scientists.
NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover has made an important discovery on its mission to the Red Planet, uncovering a specific type of rock that could prove ideal to answer the great question: is there, or has there ever been, life on Mars? The rover, which arrived on Mars in March, 2021, has come across fine-grained rocks in an area known as the Hogwallow Flats, which according to scientists on the research team may be the most-suited to determining if there is any trace of life on the planet.
“Best chance at preserving evidence of life”
As explained by Lydia Kivrak, a student collaborator at University of Florida and a contributing member on the Mars 2020 mission team, “The rocks at Hogwallow Flats appear to be very fine-grained, which is exciting to scientists on the mission as fine-grained rocks may have the best chance at preserving evidence of life […] Molecules made up of mostly carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are called organic molecules and are the primary building blocks of life on Earth.”
“The detection of particularly large and complex organic molecules, or specific patterns of organic molecules, could be considered a biosignature,” Kivrak added in an article published on the NASA mission status website.
The molecules contained in the type of rocks found by Perseverance are “preserved over a much longer period of time then they would be otherwise,” on the Martian surface, Kivrak wrote.
However, there will be a significant wait until the rocks can be studied by researchers back on Earth: another mission will have to be launched to Mars to recover the samples and return them at a later date.