The Perseverance Rover is exploring Sandstone Pass for evidence of ancient life


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dated: 2022-11-19 18:24:40 .

With plans for the upcoming Mars Sample Return mission, NASA is preparing to return a piece of Mars to Earth. But first, the Perseverance rover must collect and store samples from Lake Crater so they can be collected and transported to Earth. The rover recently entered a new area of ​​the crater called Yori Pass, which offers an exciting opportunity to search for evidence of ancient life.

Yori Pass lies in the delta of an ancient river that once contained water and may have been hospitable to microorganisms millions of years ago. This particular area is full of sandstone, a type of sedimentary rock formed from water-borne particles that settle and compact into stone.

This image of “Yori Pass” was taken on November 5, 2022 by the Hazcam camera on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. NASA/JPL-Caltech

This makes the area an excellent place to look for evidence of life in ancient times, according to experts. “In our search for organics and potential biological signatures, we often prioritize the study of fine-grained sedimentary rocks like this,” Katie Stack Morgan, a Perseverance Project Fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement.

The rocks in this area also resemble those from the area the rover explored earlier this summer. “What’s particularly interesting about the Yori Pass outcrop is that it coincides laterally with the ‘Hogwallow Flats,’ where we found very fine-grained sedimentary rocks,” Stack Morgan said. “That means the bedrock is at the same elevation as the Hogwallow and has a large, traceable footprint visible on the surface.”

Fine-grained sedimentary rocks are especially important in the search for life because they often contain clay minerals that form in water and are good at preserving organic molecules. If there ever was life on Mars, our best chance to see evidence of it is to look at clay minerals—both because life probably evolved near water and because these minerals are better at preserving evidence of this life than they would be. other types of rocks.

Although the Perseverance rover has a sophisticated array of instruments on board, to fully analyze such samples we must return them to a laboratory on Earth – hence the goal of the Mars Sample Return mission.

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The Perseverance Rover is exploring Sandstone Pass for evidence of ancient life

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