By Stacy Liberatore for Dailymail.com
22:15 29 January 2024, updated 22:15 29 January 2024
- NASA has confirmed that Jezero Crater was once filled with water
- Scientists have speculated on this idea for a long time, but a new finding has been found that proves it
- Read more: NASA's historic creation ends its three-year mission
NASA's search for life on Mars is not over yet, as its rover has found evidence of an ancient lake that may have been home to microbial life.
The Perseverance spacecraft was exploring Jezero Crater and identified sediments deposited by water, confirming speculation that the formation was flowing with water three billion years ago.
The six-wheeled machine, the size of a car, took images of the crater, allowing scientists to see a cross-sectional view of the 65-foot rock layers that was “almost like looking at a section of a road.”
The results reinforce what previous studies have long suggested: that cold, dry and lifeless Mars was once warm, wet and perhaps habitable.
Scientists chose Jezero Crater for the rover's mission because a display of water-rich minerals had previously been found in the basin
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, which orbits the Red Planet, also revealed that the crater contains clay, which only forms in the presence of water.
However, the team said recent evidence from Perseverance proves there is water flowing in the basin.
The results were detected using the Perseverance instrument, which emits radar waves beneath the surface of Mars at 10-centimeter intervals and measures reflected pulses from depths of about 65 feet below the surface.
The scientists were able to see the deep base of the sediments, and found two distinct periods of sediment deposition in the middle of two periods of erosion.
The team at the University of California (UC) – Los Angeles and Norway's Olso University noted that the floor of the crater beneath the delta was not uniformly flat, which could only mean that water erosion occurred before the lake sediments were deposited.
Radar images show that the sediments are regular and horizontal, just like sediments deposited in lakes on Earth. The presence of lake sediments has been suspected in previous studies, but has been confirmed by this research.
A second period of sedimentation occurred when fluctuations in lake level allowed the river to deposit a broad delta that had previously extended far into the lake, but had now eroded back near the river mouth.
“The changes we see preserved in the rocky record are driven by large-scale changes in the Martian environment,” said first author David Page, a professor of Earth at the University of California, California.
“It's great that we can see so much evidence of change in such a small geographical area, allowing us to extend our results to the entire crater size.”
The discovery was made as Perseverance traveled across the crater floor between May 10 and December 8, 2022.
The lander was headed toward a nearby expanse of braided, sedimentary features that, from orbit, resembled river deltas on Earth.
“From orbit, we can see a range of different deposits, but we can't say with certainty whether what we're seeing is their original state, or whether we're witnessing the end of a long geological story,” Page said regarding. The Mars rover suspended above the world of Mars.
“To know how these things formed, we have to see beneath the surface.”
The Perseverance rover lifted off on July 30, 2020, carrying with it its travel companion, the Ingenuity helicopter.
Perseverance landed at Jezero on February 18, 2021, on a mission to find signs of ancient life inside the 820-foot-deep crater.
While the vehicle is still alive and well, Ingenuity now sits on the dusty landscape after an accident damaged “one or more” of its blades.
The small helicopter took off on January 18, but lost contact with the command team, and when contact was restored, damage appeared on one of the vehicle's blades.
Ingenuity was originally designed to conduct up to five experimental test flights over 30 days when it first lands in 2023.
But the $85 million helicopter exceeded expectations with 72 flights, flying more than 14 times farther than planned and logging more than two hours of total flight time.
Data showed the helicopter achieved a maximum altitude of 40 feet and hovered for 4.5 seconds before beginning its descent at 3.3 feet per second on its final fatal flight.
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