Saturday , July 24 2021

The next NASA Mars Mars will look for signs of life in the ancient crater lake



In the search for ancient life on Mars, NASA will send the next explorer to explore the Jezero Crater – the location of the former delta and lake.

Rover, which is scheduled to be launched in 2020, is equipped with a drilling system that can collect and store rock samples containing clues to the ancient past of Mars. After the sample is cached, NASA hopes to send a follow-up mission to take samples and return them to Earth.

"Getting a sample of this delta-lake system will revolutionize how we think of Mars and its ability to protect life," said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science.

The selection of landing sites comes after Years of research and days of heated debate about the best places to look for evidence of ancient life in an alien world. Among the alternatives considered were Columbia Hills, an ancient hot spring explored by the now dead Spirit Rover, and the Northeast Syrtis, an ancient network of mesas that might harbor underground water.

Finally, said Zurbuchen, Jezero was chosen because of the diversity of the terrain. Each type of rock on site – from clay that can maintain the signs of ancient organisms to volcanic rocks that signal the evolution of the planet Mars – should help explorers reach their two main scientific goals. First, to determine what the environment of the Red Planet is like in the past. And second, to find out whether life ever happened there.

The results of past missions have revealed that Mars is not always the deserted desert world we see today. The inactive volcano recommends once intense volcanic activity. And landscapes such as the dry delta in Jezero Crater show that liquid water is on the surface – which means that Mars may have a thicker atmosphere to keep the water from boiling.

This new view of Mars resembles what is known about the early Earth. And scientists know microbial life began here 4 billion years ago.

If that happens here, why isn't there?

Jezero Crater is an ancient delta site that is inserted into Lake Cratert.

Mud stones formed from sediments that slowly spill into the lake may contain carbonates and even biological remnants (if biology ever existed).

But the sand formations known as "ripples" pose a danger to explorers here and elsewhere.

Mud stones formed from sediments that slowly spill into the lake may contain carbonates and even biological remnants (if biology ever existed).

But the sand formations known as "ripples" pose a danger to explorers here and elsewhere.

Mud stones formed from sediments that slowly spill into the lake may contain carbonates and even biological remnants (if biology ever existed).

But the sand formations known as "ripples" pose a danger to explorers here and elsewhere.

Mud stones formed from sediments that slowly spill into the lake may contain carbonates and even biological remnants (if biology ever existed).

But the sand formations known as "ripples" pose a danger to explorers here and elsewhere.

The Washington Post

Source: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona

Jezero Crater is the best place on Mars to investigate that question, said Tim Goudge, a geologist at the University of Texas at Austin who is one of the main supporters of the site. Delta is loved by scientists because of the way they collect sediments from across the water boundary and store them in layers, which eventually harden into rocks. Many of the most ancient fossils found on Earth come from this kind of environment.

If microbes ever swam in the waters of Mars, their organic remains might still be buried in mudar rocks along the edge of Jezero Crater.

"Sedimentary rocks tell us the history of what is happening on a site," Goudge said. "It's recorded in layers, and you can read it like a book."

In a memo announcing his choice, Zurbuchen noted that Jezero offered opportunities for exploration after its initial mission, which would last 1.5 years Mars (or about 2.8 Earth years). This crater is not far from the area known as Midway, which has many characteristics with the Northeast Syrtis. At a recent workshop to assess potential landing sites, members of the project science team for Mars 2020 said that the extended mission connecting Jezero to Midway allowed scientists to explore the best of both sites.

Jezero Crater is a more dangerous environment than is usually done by NASA. Often, landers must arrive at a place jokingly called by scientists "parking lots" – a flat area that is not attractive – and then drive long distances to reach the actual rock. flower. But an innovative new technology called terrain relative navigation (TRN), which allows spacecraft to compare landscape images below with known hazard maps, must allow the rover to land safely.

Because TRN was never deployed before, Zurbuchen asked engineers for analysis of additional technology. Without guarantee that technology will work according to design, the complex environment in Jezero can pose too high a risk for landing. But Zurbuchen said he was pleased with the progress of the TRN so far.

Read more:

Next stop, Mars: In a heated debate about the fate of NASA's new rover – and the opportunity to make history

Cassini is a lifelong mission for this NASA scientist. Now he has to say goodbye.


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