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Why Nasa’s Perseverance rover is drilling into ancient river rocks

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Nasa’s Perseverance Mars rover just took its first rock sample from a former river delta on the Red Planet, a sample that would provide signs of any ancient Martian life that after lived there.

Perseverance successfully drilled a 2.6-inch long core out of a rock dubbed Skinner Ridge, in response to a Nasa blog post on 11 July, the longest of nine rock samples the rover has drilled out on the Red Planet to this point.

The bore hole left by Nasa’s Perseverance Rover after taking a sample of Martian rock for eventual return to Earth.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Perseverance drilled the primary eight samples from rocks on the flat bottom of Jezero Crater, the positioning of an ancient lake, but scientists consider rocks from the delta, formed by the river that after fed the lake, stands out as the most promising by way of evidence of past life on Mars. Delta rocks may encase evidence of life that after flourished within the lake mud, if it exists, but may additionally contain material from miles upstream and deposited by the traditional river.

“The delta at Jezero Crater guarantees to be a veritable geologic feast and among the finest locations on Mars to search for signs of past microscopic life,” Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in an announcement. “The answers are on the market — and Team Perseverance is prepared to seek out them.”

Perseverance arrived on Mars in February 2021, and has since traveled greater than five miles across the 28-mile wide Jezero Crater, discovering organic compounds and dealing in tandem with Ingenuity, the primary helicopter to fly on one other planet.

Perseverance will ultimately drill a complete of 38 Martian rock samples earmarked for eventual return to Earth and advanced laboratory evaluation as a part of the Mars Sample Return mission of Nasa and the European Space Agency. That mission is scheduled to launch in 2028 and return samples to Earth in 2031.

Because the rover explores the Jezero Crater delta, the Perseverance team gives names to features based on locations in US national Parks, in response to a Nasa blog. The rock “Skinner Ridge’’ takes its name a feature in Shenandoah National Park, in Virginia.

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