Red planet rover information verifies old lake remains on Mars

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NASA’s Perseverance Rover Confirms Ancient Lake Sediments on Mars

Reports directly from NASA’s Perseverance rover have confirmed the presence of ancient lake sediments from a time when a mammoth basin on Mars, known as Jerezo Crater, was filled with water. These findings are the result of observation data from the rover’s ground-penetrating radar, corroborating previous theories that pockets of Mars were once covered in water and may have been capable of supporting microbial life.

The Research and Findings

This research, spearheaded by teams from UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles) and the University of Oslo, was recently published in the journal Science Advances. It hinged on subsurface scans performed by the six-wheeled, car-sized rover as it navigated the Martian terrain from the crater floor to an adjacent area of sine wave-like features that, viewed from orbit, are reminiscent of Earth’s river deltas.

Data collection from the rover’s RIMFAX radar instrument gave scientists the opportunity to delve underground, generating a cross-section of rock layers that extended to a depth of 65 feet (20 meters). According to David Paige, a UCLA planetary scientist and the paper’s leading author, the sight was akin to observing a “road cut”.

What was Discovered?

Examining those layers revealed compelling evidence that soil sediments transferred by water had been deposited at the Jerezo Crater and delta from a feeding river, in much the same way as they form in lakes on Earth. These findings emphasize what previous studies have asserted; that Mars, despite its current wintry, barren and lifeless state, was once warm, wet and potentially habitable.

Scientists are excited about the prospect of analyzing Jerezo’s sediments—thought to have been created approximately three billion years ago—in samples collected by Perseverance for transportation back to Earth.

The Importance of these Findings

This most recent study acts as welcomed confirmation that the geographical location chosen for the Mars mission was indeed the right one after all. However, initial analysis of early core samples, drilled from Perseverance at four nearby sites where it landed in February 2021, surprised researchers by revealing rocks of volcanic composition instead of the expected sedimentary nature.

Yet, these two studies do not contradict but complement each other. Even the volcanic rocks showed signs of change through exposure to water, prompting scientists who unveiled these findings to hypothesize that sedimentary deposits may have eroded over time.

This latest report from the RIMFAX radar appears to confirm this theory, identifying signs of erosion that seemingly occurred both prior to and after the creation of the sedimentary layers located at the crater’s western edge. According to Paige, this discovery has provided a glimpse into the complex geological history of this area on Mars.

Gleaning insights from the evidence at hand, Paige stated: “We landed on volcanic rocks, but as we’ve moved on to the delta, we’re now seeing evidence of lake sediments, one of the main reasons for choosing this location. This is a good news story.”

John Kerry

John Kerry, a distinguished author in the realm of science, explores the intricate intersections of environmental policy and scientific advancements. With an insightful pen, he navigates complex issues, offering readers a profound understanding of the crucial role science plays in shaping sustainable futures. Dive into Kerry's work on ReaderWall to embark on a journey through the nexus of science and policy.