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Home SCIENCE The Perseverance rover finds more and more organic matter on Mars

The Perseverance rover finds more and more organic matter on Mars

NASA’s Perseverance rover has found an excess of organic molecules on Mars, as well as other materials that make the dry river delta it is now exploring perfect for searching for signs of life.

Space


September 15, 2022

A mosaic image of NASA’s Perseverance rover on a rocky outcrop called Skinner Ridge on Mars

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

NASA’s Perseverance rover is exploring a long-dry river delta on Mars, and has seen signs that the region is teeming with organic compounds, carbon-containing molecules that are considered the building blocks of life.

The rover has taken measurements and samples in an area called Skinner Ridge made of layered sedimentary rocks, some of which contain materials that were likely transported hundreds of miles away by running water billions of years ago.

“With the samples that we are now taking in this more sedimentary area, we are, of course, right in the middle of what we wanted to do to begin with,” NASA lead scientist Thomas Zurbuchen said during a press conference on 15 of September. The goal was to look at Earth-like areas that harbor signs of ancient life, he said.

These sedimentary rocks contain complex organic molecules called aromatics, as well as clays and sulfate minerals, which can be produced when water interacts with the rocks. While none of these materials are definitely signs of life, known as biosignatures, they do mean we’re looking in the right place.

“It’s really important that it has sulfate and also clays, because that means this rock has a high potential for biosignature preservation, which means that if there were biosignatures in this vicinity when that rock formed, this is precisely the type of material.” that will preserve that for us to study when [the samples] come back to earth he said David Shur at the University of California, Berkeley, during the press conference.

The prevalence of organic matter has increased along Perseverance’s path through the crater it landed in to the river delta. “If it’s a scavenger hunt for potential signs of life on another planet, organic matter is a clue,” he said. suanda sharma at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California during the news conference. “We’re getting stronger and stronger leads as we go through our delta campaign.”

Most likely, though, we won’t be able to look for definitive signs of life in these rocks until Perseverance samples are brought home on a mission scheduled to launch in 2028.

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