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Treasure on Mars! Perseverance rover uncovering organic matter - TechThop

Treasure on Mars! Perseverance rover uncovering organic matter

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Treasure on Mars! Perseverance rover uncovering organic matter

 The Perseverance rover has collected some important samples on its mission.  This mission is to determine that life ever existed on Mars.  Some of the collected samples include organic matter, indicating that Jezero Crater is held in a lake and the delta emptied into it with a habitable environment of 3.5 billion years ago.

Ken Farley, the perseverance project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said, ‘The rocks that we have been investigating on the delta have the highest concentration of organic matter that we have yet found on the mission  .'The rover mission began on the red planet 18 months ago, looking for signs of ancient microbial life. 

Perseverance is about collecting the rock samples that could have persevered telltale biosignatures.  The rover contains 12 rock samples.  Mars Sample Return's mission will take the collection back to Earth in the 2030s.

Site on the delta

Jezero Crater spans 28 miles of high interest to NASA scientists.  It is a fan-shaped geological feature where a river converged with a lake and preserved layers of Martin history in sedimentary rock fused in a water-filled environment. 

The rover investigated the crater floor and got evidence of igneous or volcanic rock.  Over the past five months, the study on delta during its second campaign, Perseverance, found rich sedimentary rock layers that add more to the story of Mars's ancient climate and environment. 

Farley said the delta, with its diverse sedimentary rocks, contrasts beautifully with igneous rocks formed from the crystallization of magma discovered on the crater floor.

Understanding minerals

The juxtaposition provides a rich understanding of the geological history after the crater formed and a diverse sample suite.  Sandstone that carries grains and rock fragments created far from Jezero Crater.  The rock formed when mud and sand settled in a saltwater lake as it evaporated billions of years ago.  The rock scraped away at the surface of the rock and was analyzed with an instrument known as the Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals. 

The instrument analysis revealed that the organic minerals are likely aromatics, or stable carbon and hydrogen molecules connected to sulfates.  Organic minerals are of interest on Mars because they represent the building rocks of life, such as hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, phosphorus, nitrogen, and sulfur.  Some organic molecules do not require life because they can be created through a chemical process.

Farley said that in the distant past, the sand, mud, and salts that make up the Wildcat Ridge sample were deposited under conditions where life could have thrived.  The organic matter found in sedimentary rock is known for preserving fossils of ancient life here on Earth.

Samples to Earth

The samples collected so far represent such a wealth of diversity from key areas within the crater and delta that the Perseverance team is interested in depositing some of the collection tubes at a designated site on Mars in about two months.  Some of the diverse rocks in the delta were about 65.6 feet, and each had a different story.

Skinner Ridge is one piece of sandstone that is evidence of rocky material, which is likely transported into the crater from hundreds of miles away, representing the rover won't be able to travel during the mission.  Wildcat Ridge preserves evidence of clays and sulfates that layered together and formed into rock.  The samples are in labs on Earth that reveal potentially habitable Martin environments such as temperature, chemistry, and the deposited material in the lake. 

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