During its mission on Mars, the NASA rover “Perseverance” makes a sensational discovery. Researchers speak of a “key observation”.
Kassel / Pasadena – The NASA rover “Perseverance” faces major tasks on Mars *. Among other things, he should look for signs of earlier microbial life on the red planet and research the geology and the former climate of Mars. The rover has already answered an important question with the first images it sent to Earth, as NASA * now reports. The recordings and an accompanying study were published in the journal Science.
“This is the key observation that confirms to us once and for all that there was a lake and a river delta at the Jezero crater,” said the scientist Nicolas Mangold, the main author of the study, in a message from NASA. Today the Jezero crater, in which “Perseverance” landed in February 2021, is bone dry. But once there was water there, experts conclude from the recordings of the Mars rover. The Jezero crater was therefore 3.7 billion years ago a lake that was fed by a small river.
Nasa rover “Perseverance”: Jezero crater on Mars was once a lake
The recordings also show the experts that there must have been heavy flooding on the lake. These floods carried large stones for kilometers along the river and deposited them in the lake where they are still located today, according to the researchers working with Mangold in their study.
It is no coincidence that “Perseverance” hits the bull’s eye so soon after its arrival. The landing site in the Jezero crater was selected by NASA experts because it was suspected that water once flowed there. Recordings from Mars orbiters had shown in advance that the Jezero crater looks like a dry lake * that is connected to a river delta.
Mission on Mars: The unveiling of the NASA rover is no accident
“The rover has solved one of the biggest puzzles without going anywhere,” says a delighted planetologist Benjamin Weiss. “Until we got there, it was always a question: Was the crater once a lake?”
Mars experts believe that the red planet once had water on the surface, but dried up about 3.5 billion years ago. At that time, according to the current state of research, Mars lost its magnetic field and gradually lost its atmosphere. Another theory assumes that Mars was too small to hold water permanently *.
Nasa rover on Mars mission: “Perseverance” is supposed to visit the former river delta
Meanwhile the rover “Perseverance” has covered about 2.6 kilometers in the Jezero crater and if everything goes according to plan, it will also see the rocks that it photographed from a distance to solve the mystery of the lake close up. It is planned that the rover will drive to the former river delta to take soil samples there. Experts believe that sediments from the former lake may contain traces of previous life in the water. Therefore, “Perseverance” should also collect such samples. “We now have the opportunity to search for fossils,” explains Tanja Bosak from MIT.
The soil samples that Perseverance collects will be stored by the rover on the surface of Mars. A future mission will bring the samples back from Mars to Earth, where they can be examined directly by scientists. “It will take some time to get the stones in which we will hopefully find traces of life. It is a marathon with great potential, ”continued Bosak.
Nasa rover on Mars: “Perseverance”: soil samples are to be sent to earth
Until then, however, research will have to rely on “Perseverance” and the older NASA rover “Curiosity”, which conducts research in a different region on Mars. “A better understanding of the Jezero crater is key to understanding the changing hydrology in the area,” said Perseverance scientist Sanjeev Gupta in a NASA release. “That could give valuable insights into why the whole planet has dried up.”
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Weiss also has another hope: it is possible that the time can be found in the rock when the crater “passed from an earth-like, habitable environment to this devastated wasteland,” he explains. “These rubble beds can be records of this transition. We have never seen that in other places on Mars. “(Tab) *fr.de is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA.