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Rock with ‘potential signs of life’ found on Mars

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Mankind has been trying for many years to find evidence that once upon a time life existed on Mars. There is hope for the discovery of extraterrestrial life – there are traces of rivers and lakes on the surface of the Red Planet, and where there is water, there could be fish, mammals, bacteria and other life forms. Since 2021, the Perseverance probe, the most expensive and powerful rover in the history of NASA, has been working on Mars. Recently, while working on the territory of the ancient river delta in the Jezero crater, he found a storehouse of organic matter. Since they were discovered in a place where water once flowed long ago, scientists are inclined to assume that they will be able to detect traces of “aliens” in samples of this rock. It is possible that humanity is on the verge of making one of the most important discoveries in history, so let’s study the details.

Mars rover Perseverance collects Martian soil

The main task of the Perseverance rover is to collect soil samples from the surface of Mars. The place of his work is the Lake Lake crater with a diameter of 49 kilometers. Once upon a time, this place was a lake in which living creatures could live – at least scientists really hope for this. The samples collected by the rover are planned to be sent to Earth for a thorough study in the laboratory. This will happen around the 2030s.

Lake crater on the surface of Mars

The Perseverance rover is equipped with more than 40 soil sample capsules. The first attempts to collect material were unsuccessful, but then everything got better and at the moment the research apparatus has filled 12 capsules with valuable samples. Particularly interesting soil samples have recently been found on the Wildcat rock, 1 meter wide. Researchers believe it originated billions of years ago when mud and fine sand settled in an evaporating salt water lake. In July, the rover explored the rock and found a whole storehouse of organic matter in it.

Found proof of life on Mars

It was possible to study the composition of the surface thanks to the SHERLOCK instrument – using a laser, it can determine the mineral composition and the presence of organic compounds on any part of Mars. As it turns out, Wildcat Rock has a wide variety of organic matter that is mostly carbon, but can also include hydrogen and oxygen atoms. In addition, they may contain other elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur.

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The SHERLOCK instrument aboard the Perseverance rover

Sedimentary rock contains sulfate and clay, so it has a high potential for retaining signs of life, said researcher David Shuster.

In most cases, organic molecules are formed during natural phenomena. However, they are also the result of the activities of living things – their presence in the soil may indicate that there were once living things on Mars. In 2013, the Curiosity spacecraft already found organic molecules on the Red Planet, but the new discovery is very different, because organic substances are found in a place where living creatures could live. The likelihood that scientists have found traces of life is much higher.

In the distant past, the sand, mud, and salts that now make up the Wildcat Rock soil samples were deposited under conditions that could support life. The fact that organic matter was found in such a rock is very important, ” Ken Farley explained to research.

Delivery of Martian soil to Earth

However, the scientists note that no matter how powerful the instruments aboard Perseverance are, the exact composition of the Martian soil samples will be known only after they return to Earth. The sample delivery mission is called MSR (Mars Sample Return Mission) and is being developed in an alliance between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). The first stage of this mission is in full swing – the rover fills the test tubes. And the second stage is in the “conceptual design”, during which experts offer different options for delivering samples to Earth.

Mars Sample Return Mission illustration

NASA is expected to be able to deliver Martian soil samples in 2033. But the Americans may well be ahead of China, because she already has a plan to deliver valuable material two years earlier. It seems that in the near future we will be watching another space race, at the end of which humanity may find out that we are not alone in the universe.

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