NASA said this week it found more organic material on mars than ever before. The Perseverance rover discovered signs of ancient microbial life on the red planet in rock samples it collected. The rover is exploring the Jezero crater.
The crater was created 3.5 billion years ago near the convergency of a river and lake.
“The delta, with its diverse sedimentary rocks, contrasts beautifully with the igneous rocks – formed from crystallization of magma – discovered on the crater floor,” said Perseverance project scientist Ken Farley of Caltech in Pasadena, California. “This juxtaposition provides us with a rich understanding of the geologic history after the crater formed 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.”
The area was believed to contain vast amounts of water.
Organic molecules consist of compounds made primarily of carbon and usually include hydrogen and oxygen atoms.
“We picked 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 location,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science in Washington. “These first two science campaigns have yielded an amazing diversity of samples to bring back to Earth by the Mars Sample Return campaign.”
NASA plans to send a spacecraft to mars in 2033 to return samples to earth.