Perseverance's Selfie in Lochte

NASA’s Perseverance Makes New Discovery in Mars’ Jezero Crater

On Sept. 10, 2021, the mission’s 198th Martian day, NASA’s Perseverance rover used its WATSON camera to take this selfie on a rock nicknamed “Lochte.” Two holes can be seen where the rover uses its robotic arm to drill core samples. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The Mars rover found that the bottom of Jezero Crater is made of volcanic rock that interacts with water.

WATSON Views Foux

Perseverance took this close-up of a rock target nicknamed “Foux” using its WATSON camera on July 11, 2021, the 139th Martian day, r sol, of the mission. The area within the camera is roughly 1.4 by 1 inches (3.5 centimeters by 2.6 centimeters). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

However, igneous rock isn’t ideal for preserving the potential signs of ancient microscopic life Perseverance is searching for, because of how it forms. On the other hand, determining the age of sedimentary rock can be challenging, especially when it contains rock fragments that formed at different times before the rock sediment was deposited. However, sedimentary rock often forms in watery environments suitable for life and is better at preserving ancient signs of life.

That’s why the sediment-rich river delta Perseverance has been exploring since April 2022 is so tantalizing to scientists. The rover has begun drilling and collecting core samples of sedimentary rocks there so that the Mars Sample Return campaign could potentially return them to Earth where they could be studied by powerful lab equipment too large to bring to Mars.

Mysterious Magma-Formed Rocks

A longstanding mystery on Mars is solved in a second paper published in Science. Mars orbiters spotted a rock formation filled with the mineral olivine years ago. Measuring roughly 27,000 square miles (70,000 square kilometers) – nearly the size of South Carolina – this formation extends from the inside edge of Jezero Crater into the surrounding region.

Scientists have offered various theories on why olivine is so plentiful over such a large area of the surface. These include meteorite impacts, volcanic eruptions, and sedimentary processes. Another theory is that the olivine formed deep underground from slowly cooling magma – molten rock – before being exposed over time by erosion.

Perseverance Looks Toward 'Santa Cruz'

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover looks out at an expanse of boulders on the floor of Jezero Crater in front of a location nicknamed “Santa Cruz” on Feb. 16, 2022, the 353rd Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Yang Liu of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Mars 2020 SuperCam Laser Zapping

Illustration of the Mars Perseverance Rover using its SuperCam instrument to laser zap a rock in order to test what it’s made of. Credit: NASA

In addition, SuperCam used near-infrared light – it’s the first instrument on Mars with that capability – to find that water-altered minerals in the crater floor rocks. However, the alterations weren’t pervasive throughout the crater floor, according to the combination of laser and infrared observations.

“SuperCam’s data suggests that either these rock layers were isolated from Jezero’s lake water or that the lake existed for a limited duration,” said Roger Wiens, SuperCam’s principal investigator at Purdue University and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

RIMFAX marks another first. Although Mars orbiters carry ground-penetrating radars, no spacecraft on the surface of Mars have before Perseverance. Being on the surface, RIMFAX can provide unparalleled detail, and surveyed the crater floor as deep as 50 feet (15 meters).

Its high-resolution “radargrams” show rock layers unexpectedly inclined up to 15 degrees underground. Understanding how these rock layers are ordered can help scientists build a timeline of Jezero Crater’s formation.

“As the first such instrument to operate on the surface of Mars, RIMFAX has demonstrated the potential value of a ground-penetrating radar as a tool for subsurface exploration,” said Svein-Erik Hamran, RIMFAX’s principal investigator at the

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