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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Returning Mars Rocks

Returning Mars Rocks

Ancient 'frozen' river delta, Jezero Crater Mars (credit: JPL/NASA)

The Perseverance rover has been investigating Jezero Crater since it successful landed on Mars in early 2021. The mobile science lab carries multiple instruments, tools, and cameras for analyzing what it encounters as it explores the crater. One mission plan was to select and prepare rock samples that one day may get returned to Earth for a complete analysis.

Reaching an ancient river delta was a goal of this rover's mission. The crater and its dry delta had been photographed by other missions including the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and the Mars Express of the European Space Agency, NASA's institutional partner. The delta was of prime importance for its geology and history. Perseverance reached the dry delta and has now taken samples from its solidified rock face where liquid water and sediments once flowed into a large lake.

       Oblique angle view, Jezero Crater delta face (Credit, JPL-NASA-USGS)

According to NASA, Perseverance has collected and sealed 20 rock samples so far in its Jezero journey and placed them in metal tubes. A future goal is to get the rocks back to Earth for study and would be the first mission of its kind to do so. The delta samples offer the best opportunity to understand the early evolution of Mars and the potential for life, ie. exobiology. The dry structure is especially important since it is sedimentary, having been created by deposits that flowed in a river and and settled in the lake over millions of years. The now dry delta formed through this interaction of water and sediments in an environment that may have had the ability to preserve a time-capsule of any ancient aquatic life, if it existed.  

NASA produced a video on these samples and why they are excited by a potential mission to pick them up and bring them to Earth. Roll on rover, roll on. WHB

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