NASA breakthrough as rover discovers strong signal of organic matter on Mars: ScienceAlert

Scientists with perseverance NASA Mars Today’s rover said the probe has collected several puzzling organic rock samples from an ancient river delta on the Red Planet.

These samples are now stored for a planned future mission that hopes to retrieve the samples and return them to Earth for the first time ever from Mars.

“The rocks we’ve been investigating in the delta contain the highest concentration of organic matter we’ve found so far on the mission,” said Ken Farley, Project Scientist for Perseverance, during a press conference on Thursday, September 15.

“And of course, organic molecules are the building blocks of life, so it’s very interesting that we have rocks deposited in the habitable environment of a lake that holds organic matter.”

With the four samples collected in the delta, which scientists believe to be a former lake bed, the rover has now collected a total of 12 samples. You can see more details about each sample On this NASA site.

The lander’s landing site, Jezero Crater, is home to this fan-shaped delta that formed about 3.5 billion years ago, at what appears to be the confluence of the Martian River and lake.

Perseverance is currently examining the sedimentary rocks of the delta, which formed when particles of various sizes once settled in an aquatic environment. During its first scientific expedition, the rover explored the floor of the crater, and found igneous rocks, which form in the depths of the earth from magma or during volcanic activity at the surface.

Now on its second science expedition, the rover is studying the delta where it has found organic matter. While organic matter has been found on Mars before by both the Perseverance and Curiosity rover, this latest discovery was made in an area where, in the distant past, sediments and salts were deposited in a lake under conditions in which life would have existed.

Farley said that they, for example, found sandstone bearing rock grains and fragments created far from Jezero Crater — and a claystone that contains interesting organic compounds.

Wildcat Ridge (bottom left) and Skinner Ridge (top right). (NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU / MSSS)

“Wildcat Ridge” is the name given to a rock about 3 feet (1 meter) wide that likely formed billions of years ago as fine clay and sand settled in an evaporating saltwater lake.

On July 20, the rover scraped some of the surface of Wildcat Ridge so it could analyze the area with a tool called Scanning Enable Enicultures with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals, or SHERLOC.

What the SHERLOC analysis found is that the samples contained a class of organic molecules related to those found in sulfate minerals. Sulfate minerals in sedimentary rock layers can produce important information about the aquatic environments in which they formed.

“This correlation indicates that when the lake was evaporating, both sulfate and organic matter were deposited, conserved and concentrated in this area,” Sherlock scientist Sunanda Sharma said during the press conference. “Personally, I find these results very impressive because it seems that we are in the right place with the right tools at a very pivotal moment.”

NASA said organic molecules are made up of a variety of compounds that are primarily made of carbon and usually include hydrogen and oxygen atoms. It can also contain other elements, such as nitrogen, phosphorous and sulfur.

While there are chemical processes that produce these molecules that do not require life, some of these compounds are the basic chemical building blocks of life. The presence of these specific molecules is a potential biosignature – a substance or structure that could be evidence of past life but may also have been produced without life.

“We chose the Jezero crater for perseverance to explore because we thought it had the best chance of providing scientifically excellent samples—and we now know we sent the rover to the right location,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate director of science in Washington. In a press release.

“These two first science campaigns have resulted in an astonishing diversity of samples for return to Earth through the Mars Sample Return Campaign.”

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are collaborating on planning ways to do this Bring the first samples of Martian material to Earth for detailed study. As of now, the plan is for a sample landing gear to land near Jezero Crater or at Jezero Crater, with a small rocket that loads samples collected by Perseverance.

Two helicopters like the creation will provide a secondary capability for sample recovery on Mars. Once the sample bunker has been launched from the Red Planet, another spacecraft in Mars orbit will pick it up and bring it back to Earth, possibly by the early to mid-2030s.

These first samples collected and returned could answer a key question: Has life ever existed on Mars?

This article was originally published by universe today. Read the original article.