Perseverance, the new car Mars explorer NASA began studying the floor of the ancient crater that once contained a lake.
The rover has been busy serving as the primary communications station for the helicopter to create and document the aircraft’s historic flights. But he also focused his scientific tools on rocks on the floor of the Jizero Crater.
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The insights they gain will help scientists create a timeline of when an ancient lake formed there, when it dried up, and when sediments began to build up in the delta that formed in the crater long ago.
Understanding this timeline should help date the rock samples, which will be collected later in the mission, which could preserve a record of ancient microbes, according to NASA reports.
A camera called WATSON at the end of the rover’s robotic arm took detailed images of the rocks. A pair of zoom cameras that make up the Mastcam-Z imager on the rover’s “head” also scanned the terrain.
A laser instrument called SuperCam struck some rocks to find out their chemical composition. These and other tools allow scientists to learn more about Jezero Crater and locate them in the areas they wish to study in more depth.
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An important question that scientists want to answer is: Are these rocks sedimentary (such as sandstone) or igneous (formed by volcanic activity). Each type of rock tells a different story.
Some sedimentary rocks, formed in the presence of water from rocks and mineral fragments such as sand, silt, and clay, are better suited to preserve vital fingerprints or signs of past life.
On the other hand, igneous rocks are more accurate geological clocks that allow scientists to create an accurate timeline of how the area was formed.
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One complicating factor is that the rocks surrounding the persistence have been eroded by winds over time and covered with younger sand and dust. On land, a geologist can go deep into the field and cut a rock sample to get a better idea of its origins.
“When you look inside a rock, you see the storyKen Farley of California Institute of Technology, Project Perseverance scholar.
While perseverance doesn’t have a stone hammer, it has other ways to look beyond dust and rocks. When scientists find a particularly attractive place, they can extend the rover arm and use a scraper to grind and flatten the surface of the rocks, revealing their internal structure and composition.
Once done, the team collects more detailed chemical and mineral information using arm instruments called PIXL (X-ray Stone Chemistry Planetary Tool) and SHERLOC (Habitual Environments Survey with Raman and Luminescence for Organic and Chemicals).
“The more rocks I looked, the more I knew,” Farley said. The more the team knew, the better samples they could eventually collect using a drill in the rover arm. The best of them will be stored in special tubes and deposited in collections on the planet’s surface for eventual return to Earth.
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