NASA Finds Sign of Possible Ancient Microbial Life on Mars | Science

The Perseverance rover has reached a major milestone in its search for traces of life on Mars with the collection of “most precious” samples so farcontaining potential biosignatures that will need to be analyzed on Earth, announced NASA this Thursday (15).

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This is still not proof of the existence of past life on the red planet.but it is the best chance to date of detecting possible ancient microbial life.

A biosignature may have been produced by the presence of life, but also by its absence.. To consider it definitive, the samples must be analyzed by powerful laboratory instruments on Earth.

NASA plans to bring the samples back to Earth through another mission before 2033.

“I think we can say that they will be, and already are, the most precious rock samples ever collected,” David Shuster, a scientist working on these samples, told a news conference.

Two cuts were made by drilling through a rock called “Wildcat ridge”, about one meter in size and located in a delta that formed about 3.5 billion years ago at the intersection of a river and an ancient lake.

(VIDEO: Perseverance robot makes new discovery on Mars.)

Perseverance robot makes new discovery on Mars

Perseverance robot makes new discovery on Mars

It’s particularly interesting because it’s a sedimentary rock that appears to have formed when the lake’s water evaporated.

“Wildcat ridge” also has “a great potential for biosignature conservation”said Shuster, an expert at the University of California at Berkeley.

  • Perseverance robot landed on Mars after seven months of travel

Analyzed separately by an instrument at the end of Perseverance’s robotic arm, the rock revealed the presence of organic compounds, the highest amount detected since the mission began a year and a half ago.

These compounds – made especially of carbon and which may contain hydrogen – “are the essential elements of life”, said Ken Farley, responsible for the science part of the mission.

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These elements were detected in much smaller numbers by the rover during previous analyzes at Jezero Crater, where the lake was located, but “as we go further into the delta, the indices get stronger and stronger,” summarized Sunanda Sharma of the Propulsion Laboratory. from NASA.

“Personally, I find these results very impressive, as it seems that we are in the right place with the right instruments at a crucial time,” he said.

“We still don’t know the significance of these findings, but these rocks are exactly what we’re looking for,” concluded Farley.

Image released by NASA shows rocks drilled by Perseverance in sample collection. — Photo: NASA/Disclosure

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