Did NASA Perseverance Rover Just Discover Life Signs On Mars?

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NASA has found another reason to celebrate its Perseverance rover’s success, as it has made another important discovery on Mars. The rover has identified the building blocks of life in a sample it extracted from the Jezero crater, which is believed to have hosted liquid water in ancient times.

 
Did NASA Perseverance Rover Just Discover Life Signs On Mars?

The organic molecules discovered by Perseverance can be formed in several ways including the non-organic ones as well. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Red Planet hosted life in the past, but it indicates that life could have thrived on the planet millions of years ago.

Scientists Found Something Really Exciting

Perseverance will now continue to explore the Jezero river delta for its second science campaign and will extract samples on its way. One particular sample that will interest the team was extracted from a 3-foot wide outcrop rock called Wildcat Ridge. Upon studying the sample with the help of Perseverance’s SHERLOC instrument, scientists found that the sample had organic molecules.

This isn’t the first time NASA has collected these building blocks of life. Earlier, the Curiosity rover achieved the same in the Gale Crater; however, the molecules found in the current sample are similar to sulfate minerals that are formed in water.

In the distant past, the sand, mud, and salts that now make up the Wildcat Ridge sample were deposited under conditions where life could potentially have thrived,said Ken Farley, Perseverance project scientist.

NASA’s Plan To Collect The Samples

The fact the organic matter was found in such a sedimentary rock – known for preserving fossils of ancient life here on Earth – is important. However, as capable as our instruments aboard Perseverance are, further conclusions regarding what is contained in the Wildcat Ridge sample will have to wait until it’s returned to Earth for in-depth study as part of the agency’s Mars Sample Return campaign,” he added.

NASA will be launching a separate mission called the Mars Sample Return mission in the 2030s to bring back the samples collected by the Perseverance rover to Earth. This will enable scientists to study the martian samples in detail.

I’ve studied Martian habitability and geology for much of my career and know first-hand the incredible scientific value of returning a carefully collected set of Mars rocks to Earth,” said Laurie Leshin, director of NASA’s JPL. “That we are weeks from deploying Perseverance’s fascinating samples and mere years from bringing them to Earth so scientists can study them in exquisite detail is truly phenomenal. We will learn so much.

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