NASA's Mars 2020 rover will hunt for ancient life in Jezero crater
NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will hunt for microscopic fossils, which could provide signs of ancient life on the red planet. The 2020 rover is yet to be named, and is expected to land on the planet by February 18, 2021. Scientists working with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover have discovered that the inner rims of the Jezero Crater will be one of the best places to find signs of ancient life. The rover is supposed to land near the Jezero Crater.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a press release pointed out that a paper published in the journal Icarus has identified distinct deposits of minerals called carbonates along the inner rim of Jezero. The crater is believed to be the site of a lake that existed more than 3.5 billion years ago.
Carbonates help form structures that can survive in fossil form for billions of years, including seashells, coral and some stromatolites. According to JPL, the possibility of stromatolite-like structures existing on Mars is why the concentration of carbonates tracing Jezero’s shoreline like a bathtub ring makes the area a prime location in order to hunt for life.
NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will focus on astrobiology or the study of life throughout the universe. It will also be taking rock core samples, which will be deposited in metal tubes on the Martian surface. The idea is that future missions could return these samples to Earth for deeper study. NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions to the Moon are part of a larger plan to eventual send a manned mission to Mars.
JPL also notes that the carbonates could help scientists understand more about how Mars went from having liquid water to being a freezing desert. The Jezero Crater was also once home to an ancient river delta as images taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have shown.
The Mars 2020 team is expected to explore both the crater floor and delta during the rover’s two-year prime mission. The Mars 2020 rover will launch in July or August 2020 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.