May 19, 2022
Perseverance is NASA’s unmanned rover on Mars. It set out this week to try to answer a big question: Could life ever have existed on Mars ?
On Tuesday, the rover began its climb up an old delta slope called Hawksbill Gap. That's in the crater where the rover landed 15 months ago. Scientists believe that if there’s evidence of past life on the Red Planet, it will be found there.
That's because there was a delta in the crater.
Deltas are low, flat land. They collect sediment, vegetation, nutrients, and bacteria, carried into them by flowing rivers. Photos taken early in Perseverance’s mission confirmed an ancient lake and river delta had existed in Jezero Crater. It had been the site of a 28-mile lake and river bed 3.9 million years ago.
Perseverance is looking for rocks to sample on the 130-foot slope. The craft will also analyze the area with the goal of figuring out if there was life there. Perseverance will then collect rocks. It will carry them back to the crater’s floor. The rocks could be sent back to Earth in 2031. That's when the NASA-European Space Agency mission plans to get them.
Scientists say photo evidence and remote analyses alone probably won't be enough to answer for certain whether life existed on Mars.
Want to learn more of the backstory? Read our previous coverage:
February 19, 2021: Juice Update: NASA’s Perseverance Touches Down Safely on Mars
February 17, 2021: NASA’s New Mars Rover Seeks Life on the Red Planet
Photo from NASA.
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