Rock sampled by NASA’s Perseverance symbolizes why the rover came to Mars

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This mosaic shows a rock called “Bunsen Peak” where NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover cored its 21st rock and cut a circular patch to examine the rock’s composition. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

The 24th sample taken by six-wheeled scientists provides new clues about Jezero Crater and the lake that may once have existed in it.

Analysis of instruments aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover indicates that the latest rock core taken by the rover was submerged in water for a long time in the distant past, perhaps as part of an ancient Martian beach. The sample collected on March 11 is the rover’s 24th – consisting of 21 sample tubes filled with rock core, two filled with regolith (broken rock and dust), and one filled with the Martian atmosphere.

“Simply put, this is the kind of rock we expected when we decided to investigate Jezero Crater,” said Ken Farley, Perseverance’s project scientist at Caltech in Pasadena, California. “Almost all the minerals in the rock we just sampled were formed in water; on Earth, minerals deposited in water are often good at trapping and preserving ancient organic matter and biosignatures. The rock tells us about Martian climate conditions.” It can also tell about the things that existed when it was formed.”

The presence of these distinctive minerals is considered promising for preserving a rich record of ancient habitable environments on Mars. Such a collection of minerals is important to guide scientists to the most valuable samples for eventual return to Earth with the Mars Sample Return Mission.







The 21st rock core captured by NASA’s Perseverance has a composition that would make it good at capturing and preserving signs of microbial life, if one ever existed. The sample – the one being taken here – was taken from “Bunsen Peak” on March 11, the mission’s 1,088th Martian day, or sol. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

rim of crater

Nicknamed “Bunsen Peak” for the Yellowstone National Park landmark, the rock – about 5.6 feet wide and 3.3 feet high (1.7 m x 1 m) – surprised Perseverance scientists because the rock stands tall amid the surrounding terrain. And it has an interesting texture. Of its faces. They were also interested in the vertical rockface of Bunsen Peak, which provides a good cross-section of rock and, because it is not flat, is less dusty and therefore easier for science instruments to investigate.

Before taking the sample, Perseverance scanned the rock using the rover’s SuperCam spectrometer and the X-ray spectrometer PIXL, short for Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry. The rover then used a rotor on the end of its robotic arm to grind (or cut) a section of the surface and scan the rock again. Result: Bunsen Peak appears to be composed of about 75% carbonate grains cemented together by almost pure silica.

“The silica and carbonate chunks appear microcrystalline, which makes them extremely good at capturing and preserving signs of the microbial life that once lived in this environment,” said Sandra Siljeström, Perseverance scientist at the Research Institute of Sweden (RISE). ” In Stockholm.

“This makes this sample very good for biosignature studies when returned to Earth. Additionally, the sample may be one of the oldest cores collected so far by Perseverance, and this is important because Mars is at the beginning of its history.” was most livable.” A potential biosignature is a substance or structure that may be evidence of past life but may also have arisen without the presence of life.






Meet the 24th Mars sample collected by NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover – “Comet Geyser”, a sample taken from an area of ​​Jezero Crater that is particularly rich in carbonate, a mineral that is habitable. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Bunsen Peak sample is the third that Perseverance has collected during its exploration of the “Margin Unit”, a geologic area that covers the inside edge of the rim of Jezero Crater.

“We’re still exploring the margin and gathering data, but the results so far may support our hypothesis that the rocks here formed at the edge of an ancient lake,” said Dr. Richards of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. said Perseverance scientist Briony Horgan. , “The science team is also considering other ideas for the origin of the margin unit, as there are other ways to form carbonates and silica. But no matter how this rock formed, it is really exciting to have a sample.”

The rover is working its way toward the westernmost part of the margin unit. At the base of the rim of Jezero Crater, a location called “Bright Angel” is of interest to the science team because it may offer the first encounter with the very old rocks that make up the crater rim. Once the discovery of Bright Angel is complete, Perseverance will begin a several-month climb to the top of the rim.

Citation: Rock sampled by NASA’s Perseverance symbolizes why the rover came to Mars (2024, April 3) April 3, 2024 https://phys.org/news/2024-04-sampled-nasa-perseverance Retrieved from -embodies-rover.html

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