Key idea: A trio of new studies using data from NASA’s Perseverence rover confirm that Jezero Crater on Mars was once habitable.
Original author and publication date: Becky Ferreira (Motherboard) – November 23, 2022
Futurizonte Editor’s Note: Proven: Mars was once habitable. To be proven: Mars was once inhabited.
From the article:
NASA’s Perseverance rover has been searching for signs of life on Mars since it landed in an ancient lakebed on the red planet in February 2021. In a trio of new studies, scientists have revealed tantalizing details about the habitable conditions that once existed on Mars, while constraining the odds of discovering Martian life in the future.
Mars is currently a frigid and desiccated world that is hostile to life, but there is abundant evidence that it was warmer, wetter, and more welcoming many billion of years ago.
Simple forms of life may have emerged in the lakes and rivers that once flowed in this ancient era, which is why NASA sent Perseverance to search for fossilized traces of any bygone Martian microbes.
The rover is also collecting samples from Jezero Crater that the mission team hopes to pick up with a future spacecraft so that they can be delivered back to Earth for more rigorous examination. The data for the new studies was collected over nearly two years of extraterrestrial exploration.
The teams behind each of Perseverence’s specialized instruments published summaries of their findings in a batch of three studies on Wednesday. The new research follows an August study released in the journal Science that reported a surprising abundance of igneous (or volcanic) rocks in the areas first explored by Perseverance, and offers more granular details about the rover’s new discoveries.
“What’s coming out now is the actual instrument documentation of all this evidence that we saw,” said Eva Scheller, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who led the study about SHERLOC, an onboard ultraviolet spectrometer, which was published in Science, in a call with Motherboard. “The way that the rover operates is with different instruments that have different insight.”
“This is actually the first time we have used this kind of instrumentation in a planetary mission,” she added, referring to SHERLOC. “So in itself, it is also a demonstration of a new engineering technique.”