For a thousand days, the Mars rover Perseverance has been exploring Mars. Its latest expedition could provide new answers about the mysterious past of the red planet.
NASA’s rover has discovered new clues in a crater on Mars that billions of years ago was both a lake and a river delta.
23 stone samples have been collected, no larger than classroom chalk. The tubes contain unique minerals and organic molecules, each telling a part of the red planet’s long history, as reported by BBC.
NASA now hopes to bring the samples back to Earth for further examination. This could bring us one step closer to answering the question: Has there ever been life on Mars?
Silica a Key Discovery
Perseverance’s exciting findings, including silica, suggest that Mars once had environments that could support life – even if just microorganisms.
“On Earth, this fine-grained silica is what you often find in a location that was once sandy. It’s the kind of environment where, on Earth, the remains of ancient life could be preserved and found later.” says NASA scientist Morgan Cable to CNN.
Phosphorus Also Crucial
Some of the stones also contained iron along with phosphate, a natural source of the element phosphorus.
Phosphorus is found in the DNA of all life and in the cell membranes of every single organism known to humans.
“Now we have the strongest collective evidence ever that phosphorus was available in a form that life could use – if it existed there,” says Cable.
Deeper into the Crater
The rover’s long expedition on Mars could ultimately lead to conclusions that turn our understanding of the universe upside down.
Perseverance will now venture further into the crater to study rocks that are 500 million years older than those the rover has examined so far.