NASA’s Perseverance rover has found “a potential biosignature” of past life on Mars in the dry lakebed called Jezero Crater right where a one-time Alabama scientist predicted it might be.
The rover scraped some samples of a rock known as “Wildcat Ridge” and submitted them to its onboard analysis instrument called Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals or SHERLOC.
This is actually the second time a NASA rover has found evidence of organic matter in rock-powdered samples. In 2013 NASA’s Curiosity Rover found them, as well, but not in an ancient lake where life could have existed. Perseverance has just done that.
The samples will be put into storage for pickup and return to Earth. Watching closely are scientists at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center who are developing the Mars Ascent Vehicle that will pick up the samples and bring them home.
Until recently, Marshall was also the work address of planetary scientist Caleb Fassett who first suggested the landing spot as the likely site of an ancient lake where fossils might be recovered. According to his LinkedIn page, Fassett is now a senior research scientist at Brown University in Laurel, Maryland.
Perseverance has detected organics before in Jezero Crater. “But unlike that previous discovery, this latest detection was made in an area where, in the distant past, sediment and salts were deposited into a lake under conditions in which life could potentially have existed,” NASA said Thursday.
“In its analysis of Wildcat Ridge,” NASA went on to say, “the SHERLOC instrument registered the most abundant organic detections on the mission to date.”
Laurie Leshin, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion laboratory, said, “That we are weeks from deploying Perseverance’s fascinating samples and mere years from bringing them to Earth so scientists can study them in exquisite detail is truly phenomenal. We will learn so much.”
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