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Perseverance rover may already have found signs of life on Mars

The search for life on Mars has been one of the most enduring and exciting quests of humanity. Ever since we first set our eyes on the Red Planet, we have wondered if it ever harbored life, and if so, what kind of life forms they were.

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One of the most promising places to look for signs of ancient life on Mars is Jezero crater, a 45-kilometer-wide depression that was once a lake billions of years ago.

Scientists believe that this lake could have been a suitable environment for microbial life to flourish, and that some of these microbes could have left behind fossils in the rocks and sediments.

That’s why NASA sent its Perseverance rover to Jezero crater in 2021, with the main goal of collecting and caching samples that could contain traces of past life. Perseverance has been busy exploring the crater, drilling into rocks, and storing the samples in sealed tubes.

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But how do we know that these samples are worth bringing back to Earth? How can we be sure that Jezero crater was indeed a habitable place in the past?

Well, Perseverance has another tool to help answer these questions: a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) that can peer beneath the surface and reveal the hidden layers of history.

The GPR works by sending out radio waves and measuring how they bounce back from different materials. By analyzing the reflections, scientists can create a map of the subsurface structure and composition.

Recently, Perseverance used its GPR to scan a region of Jezero crater called “Citadelle”, where it had collected some of its samples. The results were stunning: the GPR detected multiple layers of sediment that indicated that Citadelle was once part of an ancient lakebed.

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This is a major discovery, as it confirms that Jezero crater was indeed filled with water in the past, and that the samples collected by Perseverance could potentially contain fossil evidence of ancient life.

However, there is still a long way to go before we can verify this hypothesis. The samples collected by Perseverance are not enough to conclusively prove the existence of life on Mars. They need to be analyzed in more detail by sophisticated instruments on Earth.

That’s why NASA and ESA are planning a daring and ambitious mission to bring the samples back home. This mission will involve several steps and spacecrafts, and will take several years to complete.

The first step is to send ESA’s Sample Retrieval Lander (SRL) to Jezero crater, which will carry a small rover called Fetch. Fetch will drive around the crater and collect the sample tubes left by Perseverance. It will then return them to the SRL, which will launch them into orbit.

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The second step is to send another spacecraft called the Earth-return orbiter (ERO), which will rendezvous with the sample container in orbit and capture it. The ERO will then head back to Earth and release the container into the atmosphere, where it will land safely with a parachute.

The final step is to retrieve the container and transport it to a secure laboratory, where scientists will carefully open it and examine the samples inside. This will be a historic moment, as it will mark the first time that we have brought back material from another planet.

The analysis of the samples could take years or even decades, but it could also revolutionize our understanding of Mars and its history. It could reveal whether Mars ever had life, and if so, what kind of life forms they were. It could also shed light on how life originated and evolved in our solar system, and whether we are alone in the universe.

The search for life on Mars is not over yet. It is only just beginning.

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The researchers published their findings Jan. 26 in the journal Science Advances.

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Jake Carter

Jake Carter is a researcher and a prolific writer who has been fascinated by science and the unexplained since childhood. He is always eager to share his findings and insights with the readers of anomalien.com, a website he created in 2013.