Science Writing

The Little Rover That Could

After some initial trouble that some thought might spell doom for the main mission of Perseverance, the rover has pulled through and collected two samples of Martian rock.

Initially the rock core that the rover drilled crumbled into dust and proved too fragmentary for the rover to collect. Fortunately for everyone involved, this was the fault of the rock being too soft, rather than a mechanical fault of the rover.

On September 6th and 8th Perseverance drilled and stored two six centimeter long sample of rock. It will now keep them stored until it drops them on the surface of Mars, to be brought back by a future mission planned by NASA and the ESA.

But before it collected the samples it analysed them, and what it found confirmed what many already suspected to be true. Water wasn’t a brief phenomenon on Mars, it hung around for a very long time.

One key find within these samples was the presence of salt minerals.

On Earth, salt minerals like this are known to preserve signs of life, as they can trap tiny bubbles of ancient water. On Mars there is the potential that the same thing could have happened, and tiny bubbles of water could be waiting to be analysed.

Unfortunately for anyone hoping to find out soon, we will have to wait until 2030 when the samples return to Earth.

But for now it’s looking like water was on Mars for a long time, which means it is far more likely that life was also there.

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