(ORDO NEWS) — NASA’s Perseverance rover is about to begin exploring the delta of an ancient river that flowed into Jezero Crater billions of years ago. Given how important water is to life on Earth, objects on Mars are seen as the right place to look for ancient life on the Red Planet.
The rover will reach its first location, called Devils Tanyard, within the next two sols. “Sol” is a solar day on Mars, which is about 40 minutes longer than Earth’s. The stop is on the way to the Hawksbill Gap within the delta front.
After Devils Tanyard, the team expects to make four more stops until they reach Rocky Top. During its journey, the rover will pass through different rock layers corresponding to different periods of formation of these ancient rock formations.
“After completing the first half of the walk, we plan to descend to explore three of our favorite spots.
With these samples, the team hopes to add to our Martian collectibles a set of fine-grained argillaceous mudstones, which are good candidates for preserving organics and potential ancient microbes, as well as coarser-grained sandstones for studying material washed away from Jezero and limiting past time.
Lake activity,” wrote Brad Garchinsky, student staff member of the Perseverance team, on the NASA blog.
Jezero Crater is about 45 kilometers across and is famous for the fan-shaped delta that Perseverance is about to explore. The region is rich in clays, formed at a time when water was still flowing here, and the entire crater was filled with sediments.
“With each sample, the team continues to learn more about this once water-filled crater and piece together the history written in the Martian rocks,” Garchinsky explained.
Perseverance is equipped with various instruments to study rocks on Mars, but the rover is also collecting samples that are scheduled to be brought back to Earth sometime in the next decade.
The sample sending mission will be a joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency. Several samples have already been collected by Perseverance, and they will be stored until they can be sent from Mars to Earth.
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