US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) —
To make sure that the Perseverance rover is ready to search for extraterrestrial life on Mars, scientists sent a rover for test trials in the Australian desert.
The tests reproduced the same methods that Perseverance will use to select Martian rocks and analyze them for biomarkers – molecules that indicate the presence of microbial life. Samples were collected at the Flinders Ridge in South Australia.
“Flinders is an ideal place to conduct research related to Mars, because it is a dry, dusty and windy area. It is barren and therefore a good analogue of the search for life on Mars,” – Bonnie Tees, lead author of the study.
Perseverance, which will explore the Jesero Crater on Mars, is equipped with high-tech instruments, including the PIXL instrument, which uses X-ray lithochemistry to detect the elemental composition of samples visible to the naked eye and SHERLOC, whose main goal is to detect organic compounds and biosignatures by scanning the environment using spectroscopy.
By imitating the technology available on the rover, Tees and her team were able to determine which samples would not have the signs of organics, and which were less likely to retain these organic substances. Although the conditions for the Flinders on Earth and in the Jesero Crater on Mars are very different – partly due to the lack of atmosphere on the Red Planet – the methods have been successful, even despite the problems that are typical only for the hot conditions on our planet. Perseverance was able to identify traces of ancient organics.
“We found signs of the ancient microbial life of the Cambrian period, when animals first appeared on Earth. We found biomarkers, found organic compounds, and discovered physical fossils and minerals that are related to biology on Earth,” Bonnie Tees.
According to research, the main advantage of the rover is that it will use several research methods. If the fossils on Mars are destroyed by any geological process, then signs of life will need to be sought in an indirect way, for example, by obtaining additional information about the chemical composition of rocks.
NASA has designated the launch window for Perseverance from July 17 to August 5, 2020.
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