Satellite observations from NASA’s Jezero Crater crater on Mars, the site of the 2020 Mars mission, show evidence that minerals on Mars are beneficial in preserving traces of ancient life. This makes it a better place to launch a rover than originally thought.
According to two new studies, if primitive life had existed on Mars billions of years ago — which is still a big assumption — it would have been possible to find fossil remains of this life in the Jezzello crater. That’s great news for NASA’s 2020 Mars rover to be launched to this site.
In a paper published in Geophysical Letters, the Brown University team described the discovery of hydrated silica in rocks on the edge of the ancient river delta of the Jezzello crater. As a form of silica, hydrated silica is thought to be a fossilized evidence of ancient life on Earth.
Another Purdue University paper, Icarus, points out that carbonates exist inside the crater slot of the Jezzero crater and are a mineral that preserves traces of ancient life and other important biological features.
Both discoveries were made through the Mars Small Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer (CRISM) on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
Infographic: Images of the surface of Mars.
For the rover, the Jezzello Crater is an excellent landing site, not surprisingly, because it was carefully selected by NASA. This is the final choice made by scientists in more than 60 candidate sites after five years of research and debate.
The Jezzello crater, which once had lakes, rivers and deltas, may have preserved traces of organic molecules and potential microorganisms billions of years ago.
Scientists believe the Jezzello crater has at least five different types of rocks, including clay and carbonate rocks.
Nasa is reported to be planning to launch the Mars exploration mission in July 2020, and launch edg-up of a rover rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rover is expected to land on Mars in 2021.
The mission will collect samples of rocks and soil on Mars and bring them back to Earth, while continuing the Mars rover’s mission to find signs of life on the planet.
In addition, NASA has launched a “Send A Name to Mars” campaign, more than 10 million people around the world have signed up to participate, their names engraved on silicon chips, next year with the rover to Mars.