Since the Perseverance rover landed in Jezero crater on Mars in February, the rover and its crew of scientists again on Earth have been laborious at work exploring the ground of the crater that after held an historic lake. Perseverance and the Mars 2020 mission are searching for indicators of historic life on Mars and making ready a returnable cache of samples for later analyses on Earth.
Katie Stack Morgan is the Mars 2020 Deputy Project Scientist and a analysis scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and might be offering an update on early results on the Mars 2020 rover mission on Sunday, 10 Oct., on the Geological Society of America’s Connects 2021 annual meeting in Portland, Oregon.
With Perseverance’s high-tech suite of on-board devices, the scientific crew has been analyzing the rocks of the crater floor, interpreted for now as igneous rocks, presumably a volcanic lava stream.
“The concept that this could possibly be a volcanic rock was actually interesting to us from a sample return perspective because igneous rocks are great for getting accurate age dates. Jezero was one of the few ancient crater lake sites on Mars that seemed to have both incredible sedimentary deposits as well as volcanic deposits that could help us construct the geologic time scale of Mars,” mentioned Stack Morgan.
The lake system and rivers that drained into Jezero crater have been possible lively round 3.8–3.6 billion years in the past, however the skill to immediately date the age of the rocks in laboratories on Earth will present the primary definitive perception into the window of time that Mars could have been a liveable planet.
Using Perseverance’s abrasion device—which scratches the highest floor of the rock to disclose the rock and its textures—the crew found that the crater floor appears to be composed of coarser-grained igneous minerals, and there are additionally a wide range of salts within the rocks. Observations counsel that water brought on intensive weathering and alteration of the crater flooring, that means that the rocks have been subjected to water for a major period of time.
After utilizing its on-board instruments to investigate traits of the crater flooring, the subsequent phase was for Perseverance to gather a rock pattern utilizing its drill function. However, after Perseverance accomplished its first try at drilling, the core pattern tube got here up empty.
“We spent a couple of days looking around the rover thinking that the core might have fallen out of the bit. Then we looked back down the drill hole thinking it might never have made it out of the hole. All these searches turned up empty. In the end we concluded that the core was pulverized during drilling,” mentioned Stack Morgan.
The rock possible turned so altered and weakened from interactions with water that the vibrations and energy from the Perseverance drill pulverized the pattern.
Scientists then focused one other rock that appeared extra proof against weathering, and Perseverance was capable of efficiently accumulate two core samples—the primary in its pattern assortment. Perseverance’s cache of samples might be a part of a multi-spacecraft handoff, nonetheless in growth, that can hopefully be returned to Earth within the early 2030s. From there, scientists in laboratories on Earth will date and analyze the rocks to see if there could be any indicators of historic Martian life.
“The rocks of the crater floor were not originally envisioned as the prime astrobiology target of the mission, but Mars always surprises us when we look up close. We are excited to find that even these rocks have experienced sustained interaction with water and could have been habitable for ancient martian microbes,” mentioned Stack Morgan.
Session 14: T117. Perseverance at Jezero Crater—Characterizing an Ancient Crater Lake Basin on MarsPaper 14-1: Early outcomes from the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover in Jezero Crater, Mars https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2021AM/meetingapp.cgi/Paper/367543Sunday, 10 Oct., 8–8:15 a.m., Oregon Convention Center, Portland Ballroom 256 (Hybrid Room)
Geological Society of America
Rocks on flooring of Jezero Crater, Mars, present indicators of sustained interactions with water (2021, October 8)
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