NASA landed the rover Perseverance in Crater Lake on Mars knowing it has the potential for signs of ancient life, but it is now clearer where the rover should look. Scientists have published a study (the first from Perservance since landing) that provides insight into where a rover can “best hunt” traces of past microorganisms ’lives. Finds and images confirm that the Lake once had a lake and a river delta, and that certain spots (fine-grained material at the bottom of the delta, plus rocks at the top) are ideal targets for search.
The moment of the breakthrough came when Perseverance captured images of the Kodiak, a rock erupting at the edge of the delta. It represented the best-preserved stratigraphy (geological deposits) ever seen on Mars, confirming the existence of lakes and river deltas. The footage gave the persistent team an idea of where to look for months before the rover arrived in the area.
The cloaks northeast of Kodiak also prepared a surprise. Layers covered with rocks indicate that the floods have reshaped an otherwise slow, relatively calm river. It now seems that the waterways of the Lake were much more complex than previously thought. The water level of the lake must have changed wildly for years before it eventually disappeared.
The findings should save researchers valuable time in collecting samples for eventual return to Earth. However, they could also help scientists understand why Mars has dried up. In this light, persistence should be useful even if there are no hints of a past life.
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