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NASA’s rover, Perseverance, is carrying out the most important task in the mission assigned to this space vehicle.
Perseverance has arrived at an ancient sedimentary soil on Mars, which scientists have identified as the most ideal location for finding signs of life in the past.
Billions of years ago at that location, there was a river that emptied into a large lake.
“Rivers that flow into the delta will carry nutrients, which are obviously very beneficial for life. Then, the sediment carried by the river flow and then settles there is also very beneficial for sustainability,” said Sanjeev Gupta, professor at Imperial College London, English.
“If there is life in the highlands, then it can be carried away by river currents and then settle in the delta,” he said.
Scientists believe the sediments at the site may harbor signs of ancient life, such as the microbes that once lived in Martian water.
Perseverance will drill rock to get samples. NASA plans to launch another space mission in the future to bring the sample to Earth.
Oxford University astrophysicist Becky Smethurst said scientists were excited at the prospect of examining the samples Perseverance collected.
The probe’s findings can confirm the hypothesis that long ago the Martian environment supported life.
“It’s possible that there are ideal conditions on Mars that support life and support the presence of water … the Martian atmosphere used to be much thicker, that was billions of years ago, before the Sun bombarded Mars with radiation, which made the atmosphere disappear,” said Smethurst.
“It’s possible that we’ll find signs of biology, suggesting that life once existed there.
“We are certainly excited about the prospect of finding fossils of ancient life and just imagine if we found bacteria on Mars. The bottom line is, the possibilities are endless,” said Smethurst.
Smethurst also said, Perseverance’s job is very important in helping humans understand how life emerged in our Solar System.
“Is Earth unique? There is a theory that maybe a collision between comets, asteroids and planets gave rise to water, amino acids, and proteins that we know as the ingredients of life,” he said.
“If these materials exist on Earth, shouldn’t they also exist on Mars? If we can answer this question, it could help us trace our origins,” said Smethurst.
Even so, he admits that it will not be easy to remotely control the movement of Perseverance on the surface of Mars.
“The team must be extra careful not to move the vehicle to a place that is too steep or too steep or move towards a bump where the vehicle can roll over,” he said.
“It’s not like driving the car remotely (like on Earth where we can see the results instantly), going forward a little bit and then the car will go forward, it’s not like that.”
“It takes a long time because of the distance between Earth and Mars. So we sent instructions to the Perseverance spacecraft and after that we can only wait for what happens next. And this is really worrying,” said Smethurst.
The plan is that the samples obtained by Perseverance will be taken by other spacecraft and brought to Earth sometime in the 2030s.
The Perseverance probe made a spectacular landing on the surface of Mars on February 18, 2021.
The vehicle has since tested equipment and instruments, flies a mini helicopter, and collects data on its surroundings.
Professor Briony Horgan from Purdue University, Indiana, United States, said the probe was equipped with instruments that could reveal in detail the materials and chemical and mineral structures of deltas on Mars.
“We will study the chemical elements present in the ancient lake, for example whether the water was neutral or acidic and whether the environment supported life. If the answer is yes, what kind of life could be supported,” said Horgan.
So far, no one can say for sure if there was ever life on Mars. If so, the samples taken by Perseverance can help us find answers to these questions.