The first rock samples from Mars from the Perseverance rover are already providing information. The first NASA researchers analysis from the samples indicates that water was present in Jezero Crater for a “long time,” think tens of thousands or millions of years. That, in turn, suggests that the water on Mars was stable enough to make it relatively welcoming to microscopic life.
The mission team also detected crucial salts that could have formed when water flowed through the sampled rock. The salt may not only have trapped pockets of old water from Mars, but it could also have preserved signs of life.
The two samples so far come from a single rock. It will take much longer to develop a better sense of the secrets of Mars. Perseverance won’t even collect samples from its next location, South Séitah, until after a week-long hiatus in which all missions on the planet go into a “protective” state until the end of a Mars solar conjunction. The hiatus should take effect for everyone in early October. The samples will not return to Earth until future missions collect the samples left by Perseverance.
Still, the early data bodes well for the Perseverance mission – the team has already discovered useful information about the history of Mars. These and other findings could not only reshape humanity’s understanding of the planet, but also set the direction for future Mars exploration missions.
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